In "Dare," Alexa (played by the winning Emmy Rossum) is an inexperienced, socially inept teenaged actress who decides to become a "bad girl" so she'll be more in touch with the characters she`s playing (her current role is that of the world-weary Blanche Dubois in a high school production of "A Streetcar Named Desire"). Not only does this open up a whole new realm of experiences for the young lady herself, but it leads to a chain reaction for the two most important people in her life: her geeky best friend, Ben (Ashley Springer), who becomes seemingly jealous when Alexi takes up with the school's brooding, arrogant jock, Johnny (Zach Gilford); and Johnny himself who reveals some surprising truths about himself before the story's over. "Dare" is all about the roles we take on at various points in our lives, and how different we can appear to the world once the masks we are wearing are stripped off - thereby making the theatrical context the story uses a metaphor for real life.
Writer David Brind has divided his story into three parts, each focused on a different main character (Alexi comes first, followed by Ben, then Johnny). Since this has been largely conceived and constructed as a parable, the narrative lacks credibility on occasion and the storytelling does become a bit heavy-handed at times, but some genuinely unexpected plot twists, a blunt and honest approach towards sex and sexuality, an intriguing look at the boundaries of friendship, and an overall complexity of character make the film difficult to dismiss out of hand. In fact, its strangeness is probably its most compelling feature. Brind and director Adam Salky are obviously going for something offbeat and unusual here, and it is all to the movie's advantage ("Dare" is actually a fleshed-out version of a short film Salky made a few years earlier).
Fans of "Friday Night Lights" will be intrigued at seeing Gilford in a role that appears at first blush to be diametrically opposed to the sweet and likable Matt Saracen he plays on the series, though, as the story progresses and more layers are peeled off the character, we discover that Matt and Johnny actually have quite a bit in common with one another - mainly their feeling that they are largely unloved and alone in the world (Matt just deals with it better).
In addition to the three striking leads, Alan Cumming and Sandra Bernhard lend their support to the project in small but significant roles.
Despite its imperfections, this tale of youthful self-discovery emerges as a thoughtful and insightful look at the often painful, confusing, fumbling - yet wholly necessary - efforts teenagers must go through to find their place in the world.