any good movies lately?
and recommend it.
Directed + written by: Susan
Starring: Liza Weil, Chad Morgan
Look for it at the video store under:
Watch it when you’re in the mood
The critic says:
5 the rating system
Fun factor: /5
It’s 1981, and sullen high school senior
Anna Stockard has only one vague ambition in life: to get into Cooper
Union art school in New York City, become a painter, and leave her
flaky, unsupportive single mom, bratty baby brother, and all-around
depressing suburban existence behind for good. In the meantime, she
whiles away the time by painting, listening to plenty of loud music in
her room, smoking her favorite menthols (despite, or maybe because,
everyone else seems to find them so disgusting), and indulging in
copious amounts of dope and alcohol at parties where her primary purpose
seems to be to keep an eye out on her wild and crazy best friend Brenda.
Brenda’s beautiful, brash, and has a habit of sleeping with a new
scumbag every night. She’s Anna’s complete opposite, but the two
share a deep, deep hatred of the lives they’re stuck trudging through.
Bored out of her mind and full of resentment at the world in general,
Anna’s her own worst enemy, refusing to make any attempt at doing well
in school, despite the fact that she’s relatively bright, and
desperately insecure about the talent that her very encouraging art
teacher, Mr. Chaminsky, is always telling her she’s lucky to have. She’s
got potential, and a dream, and if Anna can just find the will to make
what she wants happen, life will be okay – so long as she survives the
next few months of high school that is.
There’s certainly no shortage of gritty
coming-of-age dramas lining the video store aisles, but let’s face it:
the vast majority of them are boys’ stories, in which girls
exist on the periphery as first loves or dream loves or best friends or
sisters, symbols and archetypes more than real people. Whatever,
on the other hand, is strictly a girl-centered story, and an
intelligent, realistic, 100% unsentimental one at that. That this makes Whatever
somewhat of a rare find is probably pretty sad, but first-time director
Susan Skoog’s tale is notable mainly because it’s such a fresh,
authentic, very visceral look at what it means to be an ordinary teenage
girl trying to fight a dull, mundane, unsatisfying existence. Star Liza
Weil (whom fans of TV’s Gilmore Girls might recognize as the
delightfully acerbic Paris) gives a memorable performance as Anna,
imbuing her with just the right amount of tough-chick bitterness mixed
with girlish vulnerability to make you really sympathize with her, even
when she’s acting like a bit of a pretentious/snotty pain-in-the-ass.
Even if Anna’s world of drugs, cruel older boys and negligent/abusive
parents is pretty foreign to you – and it certainly is to me – there’s
a lot about what Anna goes through that rings painfully true for just
about all adolescent girlhoods, namely the feelings that you’re not
pretty enough, or talented enough, or smart enough, or good enough. The
fact that it’s set in 1981 is largely irrelevant – Anna could just
as easily be a teenage girl in 2002 -- but the period details, from the
excellent music to trendy Brenda’s fashion sense, do evoke the era
nicely without resorting to parody or nostalgia, making Anna’s story
seem much more personal and specific, even while the character strikes a
universal chord.—reviewed by
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