It's the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip-hop. Set against this backdrop, a lonely teenager named Luke Shapiro spends his last summer before university selling marijuana throughout New York City, trading it with his unorthodox psychotherapist for treatment, while having a crush on his stepdaughter.
A group of high-schoolers invite Mandy Lane, a good girl who became quite hot over the summer, to a weekend party on a secluded ranch. While the festivities rage on, the number of revelers begins to drop quite mysteriously.
Friendship, love, and coming of age in New York City, summer of 1994. Luke Shapiro has just graduated from high school, sells marijuana, and trades pot for therapy from a psychologist, Dr. Jeffrey Squires. Luke is attracted to a classmate, Stephanie, who's out of his league and Squires' step-daughter. By July, he's hanging out with Stephanie, taking her on his rounds selling pot out of an ice-cream pushcart. Then things take a turn. In the background, Squires and his wife as well as Luke's parents are having their troubles. Written by
The Wackness is one of those rare movies that I go into the cinema not knowing next to anything about. Apart from a relatively unimpressive TV Spot I had seen I really didn't know what to expect. In fact it wasn't until the day before I was going to see it that I actually had any interest in seeing it. So I entered the cinema knowing Josh Peck (from that dreadful Drake and Josh show) and Ben Kingsley were starring. That was the extent of my knowledge. Two hours later I left the cinema feeling extraordinarily happy, in fact this movie made me smile more than most other movies have made me this year. While it isn't the funniest movie ever the movie does make you feel good about life. Perhaps the negative things that happen to the characters and how they overcome them that made me feel so good, or maybe it was the brilliant direction and script, or maybe, just maybe this is one of those rare movies that can be classed as a masterpiece. Anyway the fact is at the moment that this is my current second favourite movie of the year, behind The Dark Knight of course. The performances here are extremely top notch, I have no idea why I ever doubted Josh Peck in the role. I suppose Drake and Josh had destroyed all my images of him ever being a serious actor, which is stupid because I remember how brilliant he was in the highly under-watched Mean Creek. But this movie belongs to Sir Ben Kingsley as Peck's psychiatrist/friend/man he sells dope to. Kingsley is hilarious yet also oddly touching in a role not many actors could pull off. His story arc is played through extremely well, and whenever he is on screen the movie is a true revelation. But extra credit must go to the director, who has made an unoriginal tale seem so vivid and original its extraordinary.
Anyway as I said Josh Peck was an extremely pleasant surprise as Luke. Peck really proves himself as an actor in this movie, in fact to the extent that I believe he could potentially gain an Oscar nomination in future years, not for this movie though, he's good not that good. Peck delivers some pretty amusing lines pretty easily, but where he really shines through is the more dramatic sequences. A scene at the beach towards the end sees him deliver a killer of a performance. It also helps that he has considerable chemistry with Sir Ben Kingsley. Seriously I would love to see them in a movie together after this performance. Anyway Sir Ben Kingsley. I admit to not being much of a fan of him. Despite him delivering a good performance in Gandhi, which I have always regarded as overlong, tedious and way overrated, nothing else really stood out in my eyes. It also doesn't help his performance in Thunderbirds still haunts me to this day. However I honestly want him to get an Oscar nomination for his performance here. He is brilliant. This is the only movie you will probably see him kissing an Olsen, using a bong, and getting high a lot. His storyline is the best thing in the movie, and whenever he is on screen the movie goes from very good, to incredible. Olivia Thirlby delivers almost an equally as impressive performance as Peck. She makes a potential two dimensional character quite possibly more than three dimensional! Her character is never dull, not a stereotype, and her very final scene with Peck really is one of the films many highlights. Famek Janssen seems to have drawn the short straw in this movie, unfortunately she gets barely any screen time. A shame since her character does actually get very interesting in the middle of the movie, yet she seems a bit wasted, despite an above average performance.
The true power of The Wackness however comes from the way it is written, and also the direction. I was four in 1994, so am probably not the best person to talk about the time the movie is set, at this time I was still running around in my Power Rangers pyjamas! Anyway the music and the way people talk in the movie seem pretty accurate by my accounts, and also there are moments the feel of the movie seems pretty right. Anyway enough about that, the script here is the key. As I have said before the storyline isn't exactly original, in fact when it all boils down to it the movie is a simple coming of age tale. Still the script here makes the storyline seem refreshing. Peck is made to be extremely sympathetic, even when he is at his mopiest. Kingsley's character gets all the best lines of course, but his more dramatic moments once again show the level of thought gone into the character. The movie doesn't start off in the best way though, the first ten minutes are admittedly not what I really expected and left me a bit dumbstruck. Most namely a dance on the subway, which the more I think about the more I like. Anyway by the end you do feel genuinely happy and also impressed. There were seven people in my cinema screen, only me and my friend really laughed in it, but this is still a movie I urge people to see.
The Wackness is probably the biggest surprise for me of the year and one I cannot wait to buy on DVD. It won't make mega bucks at the cinema, but this really deserves to be watched more than it has been so far.
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