Pyrmont Movie Review: The Wackness
I would like to think that the charm of Sony Pictures recent release The Wackness, extends beyond this reviewers nostalgia for 1994 and homesickness for the US. In fact I’m certain that this peculiar rites of passage tale will appeal to an internationally diverse audience.
Set in New York during a heatwave summer, the film follows 18 year old small time pot dealer Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck), in the epic summer between High School and the rest of his life.
Tender hearted and socially awkward Luke is easy to fall in love with as he learns about love and loss while under the unconventional guidance of Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley).
Dr. Squires is Lucas’s shrink, client and friend. He is trapped in nostalgia for the sixties, and on a journey of his own to heal his failing marriage and find a sense of self without the aid of medication. Squires finds himself shrinking back to adolescence, as he pairs up with Luke, both men having the goal of meeting a girl. The intergenerational pair go on various misadventures with hip hop so present in the backdrop, that it is almost like another character. Luke, a white Upper East side New Yorker idolizes hip hop artists especially Notorious B.I.G. who was just becoming big. The hip hop slang and swagger is very much a part of Luke’s lifestyle and ads a bit of the comedy to the story.
Post-graduation, Luke is looking to lose his virginity before he starts college. He has spent the school year nursing a crush on his client and classmate, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), who also happens to be the step-daughter of Dr. Squires. Stephanie, one of the “out-of-his-league’ popular girls surprises Luke with her returned affection.
This story is as funny as it is poignant, without being cheesy or overdone. Well cheesy being relative, there are some moments where the hip hop lingo of Luke and his peers, is awkward at best. For the most part Ben Kingsley steals the show with his charismatic but out of control portrait of Dr. Squires. There were however stand out performances by Josh Peck, Olivia Tirbly and surprisingly Method Man as the West Indian drug dealer. Overall despite being a drama, this film veers more on the side of comedy, and is a thoroughly enjoyable experience.