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WHATEVER

SYNOPSIS:
Anna (Lisa Weil) is a frustrated seventeen-year-old living in suburban New Jersey. Alienated from her high-school teachers and her divorced mother (Kathryn Rossiter) Anna dreams of becoming a painter and studying in New York City. Meanwhile, she hangs out with her more conventional but troubled friend Brenda (Chad Morgan), attending local parties where they can experiment with drugs and sex.

"No surprises here. Teen angst movies are back in vogue: drugs, alcohol, smoking in the toilets, neglectful parents, bad sex. It's like a roughed-up episode of ‘Degrassi Junior High’ with a better soundtrack (the film is set in the currently trendy early eighties, presumably to match the memories of writer-director Susan Skoog). The star, Lisa Weil, has the jaded tomboy look that spells 'authenticity' in this genre – skinny arms, flannelette shirts, flat little voice. She's probably quite a good actor, but she's forced to spend too many scenes rolling her eyes at dorky teachers and other crudely caricatured adults. Frederic Forrest is especially awful as her artistic mentor, a has-been painter who stumps around grinning and muttering like some old-time cowboy sidekick. He's such a weird presence I assumed he was going to be revealed as the film's obligatory rapist/child molester (actually that's someone else). The heroine's shifts from awkward eagerness to pissed-off gloom are believable, but there are too many cliches and student-film ideas: a drug sequence with sliding distortion effects, a zany hand-held montage where the girls run giggling round New York City. Considering the overall lack of wit or insight, there's something unbearably smug in the depiction of a frustrated free spirit struggling to express herself. Anna 'has what it takes,' we're told, and we know she's bound for eventual success – at least if success means turning out movies like Whatever."
Jake Wilson

"Whatever marks an auspicious feature debut for writer/director Susan Skoog. It’s not without its flaws – it’s overlong and lacking in dramatic urgency – but as an exposition of adolescent "coming-of-age" it does avoid the majority of cliche-ridden pitfalls. The casting of relative newcomer, Weil, in the leading role proves to be a winner. Undoubtedly, it was essential for a film aspiring to be neither moralistic nor sentimental that Anna be portrayed as neither rebel nor victim. And Weil flaunts a perfectly nonchalant mien, which echoes the film’s title and convincingly expresses a feeling of alienated frustration. For the most part, there is a caustic honesty and little sugarcoating in the film’s presentation. Skoog has created an intriguing dynamic with scenes accompanied by an ebullient, ‘80’s pop/rock soundtrack and agitated lens-work alternating with scenes that incorporate background silence and little camera movement. Nothing is overwrought and there is an impressive attention to detail. The narrative is episodic, and despite some fleeting moments of melodrama, the story-line takes a back seat to a voyeuristic journey into the inner-world of a teenager on the cusp of adulthood. It’s a sharp and powerful reminder that teenagers sooner or later have to make important choices for which life may not have really prepared them. Sometimes a single moment of adolescent impetuosity can even be life destroying. But most will teeter on the brink without actually falling, and soon forget how close to the precipice they once stood."
Brad Green

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CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 1
Mixed: 0

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WHATEVER (MA)
(US)

CAST: Liza Weil, Chad Morgan, Kathryn Rossetter, Frederic Forrest, Gary Wolf, Dan Montano, John G. Connolly, Marc Riffon

DIRECTOR: Susan Skoog

PRODUCER: Ellin Baumel, Kevin Segalla, Susan Skoog, Michelle Yahn

SCRIPT: Susan Skoog

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Michael F. Barrow, Michael Mayers

EDITOR: Sandy Guthrie

MUSIC: Walter Salas-Humara

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Dina Goldman

RUNNING TIME: 113 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia TriStar

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 26, 1998 (Melbourne; other states to follow)







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