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The Wackness (2008)

Written and Directed by Jonathan Levine

When first meeting the main characters of the film we find that Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) and Dr. Jeffrey Squires (Ben Kingsley) share an oddly comfortable relationship with one another; based on a mutual liking to a particular vice. Both having feelings of being stuck, in as far as to what next move either was willing to make, bonding them in the process of trying to figure such out. Their initial arrangement, after meeting in the Spring of 1994, transforming into trading therapy sessions for sacks of weed as they become close in the midst of all their transgressions to follow for that next summer. A coming of age done 1994 style while roaming the streets of Manhattan. Writer/Director stating that while the period piece is rather reminiscent of his youth, the measures were drastically exaggerated, for the most part. Except the amount of weed smoked, that was probably all fairly accurate.

Graduation brings typical thoughts of what the future might have in store for Luke. The repetitive nature of getting a job you hate and waiting until you die not sufficing and becoming quite the entrepreneur in the meantime. Opting out of hanging with any of the posers roaming about the streets (more-so because they wouldn’t hang with him) and sticking to his Walkman and “ices” machine (where he otherwise stored the bud). Visiting his supplier Percy (Method Man) whose hard Jamaican accent couldn’t hide the fact that he liked to listen to himself with Biggie while conducting business. But mostly keeping to himself with the companion of Dr. Squires as the summer progressed. Insisting that he have a couple flings in order to cheer up; “your not depressed Luke, your sad. There’s a difference.” And what would that be exactly?

Whether realizing it or not, encouraging a relationship between his step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby) and Luke, who end up running into the other several times after Graduation. Solidifying a summer romance once her real friends left and her boredom caused her to wander. Taking his virginity yet quickly over him once mention on the L word becomes involved. Though having been given a piece of himself when tagging along for a day to visit such regulars as Union, the dancing hippie in the park (Mary-Kate Olsen) and ex musician Eleanor (Jane Adams) whose entertaining paranoia surely made up for the awkwardness felt once in her presence. Luke soon figures out the type of girl Dr. Squires step-daughter was really like, though warned of such happening, but gracefully walked away with his first heartache knowing that he didn’t regret a single action at that exact point in time.

Josh Peck, being no stranger to the city of New York was happy to make a movie in a place he had grown up around, yet never fully explored as did when filming. Which was nice to see him in an environment you could tell he was comfortable with and not so much of a stretch to necessarily imagine. However, he was severely pushing it on his level of cool that by the end he had in fact, became the wackness. Because…“You neva go full retard (Tropic Thunder).” Think about some of the roles he’s been taking up the last couple years. Keeping in mind the transition that he’s gone through physically, its as well no wonder. But the suave, mean bully type or hero isn’t fit for everyone. And I honestly don’t mean that the way it may sound. If anything it will end up hindering his career for trying so hard to brake away from a childhood role he’s most known for. A hard enough barrier as is.

There was also like, mad slang all over this film. Yo, you feeling me? Naturally expecting few to be incorporated, perhaps letting the Actors make the language their own for a lot of scenes wasn’t the right way to go about it. Olivia Thirlby, more then has the image of the hip, deranged, teen-aged fun girl aspect down; playing them so frequently. While she maintained chemistry with her co-star, it was nothing that made the film stand out per-say. Undoubtedly due to the obvious nature of Josh’s “admiration” for her though not as equally shared. But such was supposed to be the case, technically, you just ended up feeling really bad for Luke by the end of everything.

The savior of the film being the marvelous Ben Kingsley. Whose marriage to Mrs. Squires (Famke Jensen) seemed to appear more as an numbed existence; later reminiscing of better times between the two. Eventually coming to the adult decision to get a divorce. Yet also deciding to tag along on another days hard work of dealing in the city. Hilarious and heart-wrenching at any given point throughout as Kingsley easily breaks your heart with his fixed smile and zombie notion of being ‘okay.’ He’s also the only character we see fully transition into the very depths of where he could go. Claims of never cheating soon lead to making out with the Olsen twin when in a bar one night. Tagging a building with young Luke yet signing his actual signature and running right into the cops; sending them in jail for a couple hours. Even attempting a mini vacation for him and his wife though admittedly in what had become a loveless marriage. No longer wanting to walk through the emotions perceived to have and binging on any drink, pill or substance he could find once Luke had joined him. Because you know what they say about misery. Overall something worth seeing more for the feel of the movie or caring to see Sir Ben smoking from a bong (because why wouldn’t you want to see that?) Though for a more adult version of the psychiatrist’s character, I’d recommend Shrink with Kevin Spacey. Just something I thought received a lot of hype when it didn’t feel as extraordinary as alleged.