film reel image

film reel image

Friday, November 4, 2022

Whatever 1998 * * * Stars


I wasn't totally sure what the title meant in regards to 1998's Whatever. So yeah, I looked up its actual definition. The word has to do with lack of restriction so it makes more sense now. Whatever's characters as spotted wastoids seem like they are bound by nothing. 

Whatever is directed by Susan Skoog, a sort of recluse by today's standards (she has only done 2 films in the past 24 years). The flick might have drawn from Susan's own personal experiences growing up in the early 1980s but I could be wrong. Anyway her film is shot with a special lens I suppose making it look like it came out long before '98. Unwashed as a nearly two-hour teen drama, Whatever is a peek in snapshot, all hazy and punk and besmirched for the indie crowd. 

Coming out during the Larry Clark heyday with some added, Dazed and Confused flavor, Whatever is a character study, disjointed in its pacing but sometimes hard-hitting (and desolate) when it comes to pre-adult experiences. The movie centers around Anna Stockard (a perfectly cast Liza Weil). Anna wants to become an artist and get out of New Jersey but the allure of sex, drugs, booze, her shady inner circle, and even her mother keeps her grounded in slight, self-doubt. 

On reflection, Whatever's narrative seems a little fragmentary but its raw performances and left field, dry humor pull you through. And its sense of time and place is kind of slighted (the personas look more 90s than 80s) but hey, the soundtrack is killer, a mixture of Ramones, The Pretenders, and Rush (how random is that?). Flawed but nearly cultish, Whatever's message will always be clear: Being an angst-ridden teen is a tough job but remember, you got your whole life ahead of you. Just gotta keep livin' man. 

Written by Jesse Burleson

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