Sunday, July 13, 2008

The Wackness Review

Wow, where did this Sundance Audience Choice Award 2007 film come from? This film is a fantastic coming-of-age story set in 1994 about a marijuana-selling, New York teen, who's infatuated with the daughter of his shrink who he sells weed to for private session. His name is Luke Shapiro and he's played by Josh Peck who you might remember from Snow Day or Drake & Josh. And let me tell you, he is neither of the characters he played in those silly things. For once, I've seen Josh Peck somewhere where he can flex his acting muscles. The whole film is weighted on him and his character's change and he does it very well. Veteran actor Ben Kingsley also does very well as Luke's mentor/best friend and Olivia Thirlby does very well as the love interest who's mildly interested in Luke.

The Good of The Wackness
The acting was really great in this. I'm still thinking about Josh Peck's performance. In every role I've seen him in he's played an overly cheesy and comedic character but I never expected this from him. He pulled off a '94 New York kid flawlessly and the audience definitely empathized with him when he went from first love to heartbreak. He has some great moments, especially the first phone call he makes to Stephanie after the big upset. I don't know Ben Kingsley, but he did a fine job. I looked him up but didn't find anything I recognized him in and I think that's good. Usually with veteran actors you associate them with previous roles and to me he's just the crazy, drugged-out Dr. Squires. The relationship Dr. Squires has with Luke is more of a friend then a mentor and a psychiatrist, which is really great. Olivia Thirby does very well as the pivotal love interest. Her chemistry was phenomenal with Peck and the moments she has with him are some of the best in the film.

The story was also very well-written and although set in the 90s with a lot of references to the period, it was timeless. Or perhaps I'm being biased because I lived in the 90s and I remember Nas and the Notorious B.I.G. on the radio. But beyond that I just love the arc the characters have, especially the protagnonist Luke. Of course we've all seen coming-of-age stories and we generaly know how they work. A young boy or girl goes through a journey in their live where they grow and change in the end. That is what The Wackness is at its core but there are different elements to it that really drew me in (aside from it being a period film). What really stands out in my mind is the last thing Luke says to Stephanie when he is leaving. (MAJOR SPOILER ALERT STARTS HERE, you must highlight to see) Before he goes down the elevator she comes out and asks him to wait and he says, "Stop, just stay right there and don't say anything to me, I want to keep this" she of course says, "What?" and he says, "I've never gotten my heartbroken before, I want to hold on to this" and just walks into the elevator and leaves. I may have gotten the quote wrong but that was the gist of it and it was really well-written. (MAJOR SPOILER ENDS HERE)

The Bad of The Wackness
The only major issue I had with this film were some of the editing choices (especially when they get busted) and one lighting problem during a night scene.

Also, I did not fully understand why Luke was not accepted by his peers. He seemed cool enough with them when he sold them marijuana but during the party scene he's sitting alone watching them enjoy themselves. This could have used a bit more development. We as the audience really have to understand why he's an outcast and why it would be so unlikely for him to hook up with such a popular and hot girl.

Conclusion of The Wackness
A great coming of age story we all can relate to. Aside from a few nit picky editing issues and story problems, it's a great and entertaining film with a lot of heart.

Story: Great, just a few small problems. (9/10)
Acting: Some great casting and great chemistry between Luke > Stephanie & Dr. Squires. Josh Peck does a fantastic job. (9.5/10)
Entertainment: Some really fantastic and classic moments. (9.5/10)
Editing: I just wouldn't have done some things they did (8/10)
Pacing: Little slow at times. (8/10)
Recommended: Yes, but only for those looking for some 90s nostalgia, some sex scenes and a good time :)

TOTAL: (8.5/10)


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