Teen movies about finding yourself in the transition between high school and college have been run into the ground, so it was a complete shock for me when I watched Jonathon Levine’s heart felt and witty film, “The Wackness.”
The film takes place in Giuliani-occupied New York, circa 1994, and centers on Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), a troubled teenage drug dealer who trades pot for therapy sessions with Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley). As summer starts to sink in, Luke falls for Squires’ sultry daughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thrilby). This may seem like a simple premise but it is far from that as the film takes off and presents these brilliantly layered characters, displaying a lot of heart.
Levine wrote and directed this film, and deserves extra credit for the amazing screenplay. The dialogue is sharp, witty and will put the potty-mouthed “Superbad” to shame, while the cast delivers top-notch performance after performance.
Josh Peck has stepped out of the Nickelodeon shadow with his portrayal of Luke, and of course Ben Kingsley is amazing (this is one of my favorite characters he has played). They had amazing chemistry and were just so funny looking together. Olivia Thrilby was great in “Juno” and does a decent job here as well. For memorable moments of great acting, however, one of the most shocking things in this film was seeing Ben Kingsley make out with Mary Kate Olsen. It is definitely a scene movie-goers will be talking about for sometime to come.
My only problem with this film (and it is pretty small) is that for a film that is so focused on being anti-Giuliani, it never shows exactly how evil Giuliani truly is outside of dialogue about him. Other than that, I absolutely love this film.
This was just a fun movie. I wish I could praise it more but I think I have already made my point. If you have ever experienced the crushing effect of young love, you owe it to yourself to check out this gem of a dark comedy.