Film Scouts Reviews


by Richard Schwartz

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The recent success of such films as "Clueless" and "Scream" has heralded in a new wave of teenage films but most offerings are just as dimwitted and sophomoric as the original crop of high school flicks a decade ago. Once in a while, a film that treats the subject of teenagehood seriously comes along; fortunately, Susan Skoog's "Whatever" is one of those exceptions. Set in the pre-"Just Say No" days of the early '80s, "Whatever" details the maturation of high school senior Anna Stockard (newcomer Liza Weill) and her attempts to face, or at times escape, the various pressures of teen life - sex, drugs, grades, higher education, family matters. Her best friend (Chad Morgan) has her own set of problems as well including an abusive father and dangerously promiscuous disposition. That's not to say "Whatever" is a teen film with a totally straight face - humor can be found in the details - the discussions about bongs and blow jobs, the various archetypes of the high school scene, the scenes of all-night keggers.

Yet because the film's themes are so universal - promiscuous sexual activity and recreational drug use weren't unique to the '80s - one wonders why the film is a period piece. With the occasional Reagan reference or Atari prop, the only thing that really says '80s about "Whatever" is the soundtrack, which features some quality tunes by the Pretenders and the Jam. Still, that shouldn't detract from a smart and mature teenage film and fine feature debuts by the director and lead actresses.

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