The WacknessSometimes it's right to do the wrong things.
and directed by Jonathan Levine, "The Wackness" is a rather quirky
coming-of-age film set in 1994 during a sweltering New York summer. The
newly inaugurated mayor, Rudy Giuliani, has begun executing his
initiatives to cut down on urban annoyances such as graffiti, public
intoxication and noise pollution, namely those pesky ghetto blasters
and boom boxes.
Enter Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), a recent high
school graduate who might be the most popular of the unpopular, or the
most unpopular of the popular - either way, Luke spends most of the
time in his room alone, loyally listening to hip-hop beats on cassette
or playing The Legend of Zelda on his Nintendo. The socially inept Luke
doesn't have any friends, and his parents' relentless bickering pushes
him further down the path to depression.
Luke wants to get away
from it all, though his parents' financial problems limit his college
hopes. He resorts to selling marijuana out of an ice cream cart to fund
his future. Among his many paying clients, Luke trades weed to his
drug-addled psychiatrist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), for words of
After admitting to Squires that his life sucks, Luke
asks for anti-depressants. The hypocritical shrink, who is addicted to
numerous prescription drugs, advises the youngster to embrace his pain,
rather than run from it. In the good doctor's opinion, Luke just needs
to get laid.
Getting laid has never been so hard, especially for
a virgin like Shapiro. There is a girl he's currently crushing on, but
the only problem is its Squires' sexpot stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia
Thirlby). You know Thirlby from "Juno," where she played the title
character's best friend. She's a bubbly, appealing presence in this
film - and she plays the part of a bored girl in the summer perfectly.
Luke struggles with his own coming of age, Squires is miserable,
overmedicated and drowning in a midlife crisis. His wife (Famke
Janssen) no longer loves him and the once respectable doctor begins
acting more like an adolescent than his teenage patient. Squires' story
is of a man who became a boy becoming a man again. You've never quite
seen Sir Ben Kingsley like this before. Try to imagine Gandhi boozing,
taking bong hits and making out with a Grateful Dead-worshipping
Mary-Kate Olsen, complete with gypsy skirt and dreadlocks.
Wackness" succeeds more than it fails. It's emotionally authentic and
sweetly sincere, despite it's grimy, drug-addicted exterior. It does,
however, tend to trip over itself towards the conclusion. Though the
film only lasts 95 minutes, the last act stalls out too many times only
to start up again and limp onward - dragging the ending out to the
point where 95 minutes feels like 130 minutes.
overcomes its failures with wonderful performances by Josh Peck and Sir
Ben Kingsley and a clever script by writer/director Jonathan Levine.
Levine seems to have captured his own transition from adolescence to
maturity in the movie's heart and soul, giving "The Wackness," an
autobiographical feel that can't be faked.
Wackness" is a charming coming-of-age film that feels honest and
genuine. Levine has painstakingly recreated the summer of 1994. I can
feel the sweltering heat of New York City streets - the smell of
marijuana smoke drifting through the air - the beats and rhythms of A
Tribe Called Quest on the radio and the sweet sincerity in being