Whatever

  • 1998
  • 1 HR 52 MIN
  • R
  • Drama

Ignore the slacker title: This sharply observed coming-of-age story (nominally set in the '80s, though it's hardly an issue) isn't about slinging slack-jawed attitude. It's a clear-eyed, phenomenally well-acted slice-of-life look at high-school friends whose lives are diverging at a frightening rate. Aspiring painter Anna (Liza Weil), whose ambitions seem...read more

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Reviewed by Maitland McDonagh
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Ignore the slacker title: This sharply observed coming-of-age story (nominally set in the '80s, though it's hardly an issue) isn't about slinging slack-jawed attitude. It's a clear-eyed, phenomenally well-acted slice-of-life look at

high-school friends whose lives are diverging at a frightening rate. Aspiring painter Anna (Liza Weil), whose ambitions seem almost ludicrous in the context of her depressed Jersey hometown, is waiting on word about a scholarship to a prestigious New York art school the way drowning men grasp at

life preservers. Her divorced mother is one step ahead of a flock of bill collectors and consumed with the thought of giving Anna a better life, even if it means a loveless marriage to a sweaty but well-heeled jerk. Anna's reckless best friend Brenda (Chad Morgan) is trying out the age-old "use

what you've got to get what you want" approach. Mostly what it's gotten her is a reputation as the town pump, and she's well on the way to dragging Anna down the same self-destructive path to which she's unthinkingly committed herself. First-time writer-director Susan Skoog makes a couple of

missteps -- Frederic Forrest's performance as a failed painter turned high-school art teacher is just plain awful -- but she flawlessly captures the contradictory faces of lower middle-class suburbia, the superficial amenities that mask poverty and violence, and the bitter pressure to better

yourself without thinking that you're better than anyone else. She also elicits first-class performances from her leads: Poised between puppy fat and adult voluptuousness, Weil perfectly embodies the mix of awkwardness and desperate longing for experience, while Morgan captures Brenda's brittle

recklessness with disturbing precision.

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  • Released: 1998
  • Rating: R
  • Review: Ignore the slacker title: This sharply observed coming-of-age story (nominally set in the '80s, though it's hardly an issue) isn't about slinging slack-jawed attitude. It's a clear-eyed, phenomenally well-acted slice-of-life look at high-school friends wh… (more)

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