The third part of Gregg Araki’s Teenage Apocalypse Trilogy, following Totally F***ed Up and The Doom Generation, is just as nuts and in your face as the earlier movies. Like many of Araki’s films it’s a strange movie that’s difficult to quantify or fully understand. All of Araki’s early film have the sense of him trying to create a screenplay that’s like a net being wafted through the air attempting to capture the spirit of the time. Nowhere is perhaps the most successful of his films at doing that.
The movie follows a day in the life of a group of young people, mainly shown through the eyes of Dark (James Duval – who as in the other Teen Apocalypse movies, is almost Araki’s fictionalised alter-ego). He’s having issues with his bisexual girlfriend (Rachel True), who seems more interested in hedonism than in her boyfriend. Dark’s also got a new friend, Montgomery (Nathan Bexton), who appears to want more than just friendship.
Other plotlines involve horny teens (in fact, everyone is horny in this movie), a young woman who is raped by a teen idol (the rapist is played by Jaason Simmons, who at the time was a teen idol himself in Baywatch), a boy attempting to get his girlfriend to a party, a group of friends having a bad acid trip, and even aliens that may want to take over the earth. As you may have guessed, it’s all a little bizarre and the ending will have you going ‘What the f**k?!’
It’s also interesting that Araki tried to fill the grown-up cast with cult names such as Beverly D’Angelo, John Ritter and Charlotte Rae, but he also ended up casting a load of young actors who were on the cusp of becoming much better known. There’s Christina Applegate, Heather Graham, Ryan Phillippe, Guillermo Diaz, Scott Caan, Denise Richard, Rose McGowan and Shannen Doherty (who was probably the best known at the time, thanks to Beverly Hills 90210).
Some will definitely find the whole thing too weird and wonder what on the hell is going on, but others will find themselves drawn into Nowhere’s odd world that’s next door to reality. It’s an attempt to document the meandering, slightly meaningless solipsism of the grunge generation, and while very much a product of the mid-to-late-90s, looking at it now it’s difficult not to feel that while every generation of young people like to feel their brand of misunderstood alienation is unique, the basics always remain the same.
Although Araki was at the vanguard of the New Queer Cinema in the 90s thanks to The Living End and Totally F***ed Up, Nowhere is almost post-gay, with characters whose sexuality feels totally fluid and where sexual identity is neither fixed nor too much of an issue. That may reflect the fact that Araki was going through a bit of a change himself when he made the film. Before Nowhere he’d always identified as gay, but shortly afterwards started dating Kathleen Robertson (who appears in the movie), and has identified as bisexual since then. Some saw Araki dating a woman as a betrayal by a man who’d been at the forefront of creating a new gay identity on film, but as some of the characters in Nowhere suggest, life isn’t always as simple as labels sometimes imply.
Queer identity is threaded through Nowhere but unlike many queer movies it’s far from its driving force. Its ambitions are broader than that, and like many of Araki’s other films manages to feel pointless and yet full of meaning at the same time (the sense of pointlessness is part of the meaning). There’s a feeling with many of Araki’s films that he’s trying to catch the wispy vagaries of life that are almost impossible to put into words. As a result his movies can be hit and miss (the more recent Kaboom!, for example, shares a lot of the themes of Nowhere but comes across as sexy but completely random and nonsensical), but Nowhere is probably his best attempt at trying to capture the listless confusion of youth.
Overall Verdict: Nowhere may be a strange movie that’s deliberately one step from reality, but it still feels like it’s managing to capture the selfish hedonism, search for meaning and random confusion of youth, from fluid sexualities and drug experimentation to rampant hormones and never being sure what’s going to happen next.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac