Steamy teens on Main Line

Emmy Rossum (left), Rooney Mara, Brianne Berkson in "Dare," about three high school actors experimenting with nascent sexual power.

Dare, a steamy teen-angst drama set on the Main Line, centers on three high school actors who role-play both onstage and off, experimenting with their sexuality and nascent sexual power. Think of the film from director Adam Salky and screenwriter David Brind as Pretty in Pink crossed with Cruel Intentions.

Alexa (Emmy Rossum), is an academic overachiever frustrated with her slacker drama partner Johnny (Zach Gilford) and deflated when a professional (snaky Alan Cumming) criticizes her performance as Blanche DuBois. How, he asks, can she play sexual passion if she's never experienced it? The pro, however, is taken by Johnny's magnetism.

So, secretly, are Alexa and her platonic best friend, Ben (Ashley Springer). But how do the class outsiders, one presexual, the other undeclared, command the attention of the troubled cool guy? And what happens to a longtime friendship when buddies compete for the same lust object?

Brind's screenplay is pregnant with fascinating questions of identity and social anxiety. And Salky knows how to create a mood. The actors, especially Rossum and Gilford, are excellent as the aggressive drama queen and her passive consort. But in this ever-triangulating erotic triangle, the leads' emotional reversals and abrupt transformations often seem more a product of screenplay than of character.

Contact movie critic Carrie Rickey at 215-854-5402 or Read her blog, "Flickgrrl," at


Directed by Adam Salky. With Brianne Berkson, Ana Gasteyer, Sandra Bernhard, Rooney Mara, Cady Huffman, Ashley Springer, Emmy Rossum, Alan Cumming, Zach Gilford. Distributed by Image Entertainment.

Running time: 1 hours, 30 minutes.

Parent's guide: R (for sexual content, language and alcohol use - all involving teens).