Year Released: 1998
MPAA Rating: R
Running Time: 90 minutes
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A refreshingly honest coming of age tale told from a female perspective. Anna is a high school senior trying to figure out what to do with her life. While her pretty best friend Brenda lets herself get gang banged at keg parties Anna is a virgin who’s never smoked pot. The film follows her as she tests the boundaries of her world and undergoes some rude awakenings but ultimately discovers a core of personal strength beneath her teenage confusion.
The film contains the kind of marvellously naturalistic, completely believable performances of the kind that only seem to be found in independent films. Liza Weil, a sort of gritty version of Claire Danes, is particularly empathetic as Anna while Chad Morgan skilfully reveals the desperation beneath screwed up Brenda’s slick facade. The story is quite simple and not particularly original but the attention to detail, smart dialogue and spot-on characterisations flesh it out. If one ignores the one unfortunate lapse into melodrama it works very well. While this is Susan Skoog’s first feature film one wouldn’t know it to look at it. Skoog’s filmmaking style is smart and professional, realistic but never self-consciously dark or gritty. In the discussion after the film she claimed that with Whatever she was aiming for something between a John Hughes candy floss vision of high school and the “we’re all going to die horribly” nihilism of Kids. What’s she’s created contains elements with which any American who went to high school during the eighties will be able to identify.
Posted on December 7, 1998 in Reviews by Ilana Lindsey
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