The film world has beaten adolescent boredom to death.
In watching "Whatever," it is hard to stifle the temptation to let loose a primal scream: "I've seen this all before-a dozen times!" Shock me, stun me, make me mad, but don't bore me. How many times do we have to watch the obligatory humping, drinking, smoking, drugging, stealing, and lying around in lethargy that so many young filmmakers rites of passage. "Parents," these whiners cry, "why haven't you made our lives more interesting?"
If it's all so deadly dull, jump out of a plane, with or without a parachute. Get yourself out West; apprentice yourself and learn how to do something; get an Outward Bound scholarship to gain a little perspective on the wasted being you've been until now. But why blow your one or five or ten years of freedom fooling around with daytime eye makeup and evening vomit? How many movies do we have to watch about the tragic condition of being a teenager? You've got feet? A brain? A hand to write with? Don't let your parents stop you.
"Whatever" asks us to feel sorry for a bunch of insolvent, arrogant, self-absorbed complainers whose parents, of course, are to blame for their misery. The arrogance of blaming someone else for your misery is intolerable. Brenda (Chad Morgan) is the successful flirt, master of the tools of her trade: hairbrush, mascara, cigarettes. Henry passes his time with alcohol and drugs, baseball caps and sex. Martin and Anna (Liza Weil) are partial to vodka and beer kegs. It's good fun to pour liquor into someone's gullet through a flex hose. "What are you afraid of, Anna?" "I'm afraid of being ordinary." Wow.
Courtship rituals are soaked in gallons of Jim Beam, firsthand smoke, and emptiness. One dealer describes time in Jamesburg cleaning toilets and dishes and digging graves--at least he learned how to do something. These teenagers are mired in physical and emotional boredom, and it never occurs to them to do something about it.
When writer/director/co-producer Susan Skoog sketches a faint hope in the high-school teacher who tries to help Anna get into Cooper Union as an art student, we wonder why he would waste his time, and we certainly understand why Cooper Union doesn't want to waste theirs.
We meet drunken mothers, lovers, and younger siblings subsisting on junk food as they move up the boredom chain. And still their kids rebel the easy way: drugs and alcohol. Following the same grisly path their parents have taken, not one of these kids heads for adventure, or for money that might free them, or even for fun. Skoog's film is undeniably well made. At her own young age she has chosen to make and has succeeded in making a professional film. May she take all the arrogant, wasted shells she describes and teach them her trade. But please, Ms. Skoog, find a new subject. The film world has beaten adolescent boredom to death.
Film Critic : JOAN ELLIS
Word Count : 492
Studio : Sony Pictures Classics
Rating : R
Running time : NA
Copyright (c) Illusion
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