Sunday, July 31, 2016

Movie Review: "The Wackness" (2008)

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Movie: "The Wackness"
Director: Jonathan Levine
Year: 2008
Rating: R
Running Time: 1 hour, 39 minutes

Recent high school graduate Luke (Josh Peck) is planning on spending his summer dealing weed and working through his personal issues with his psychiatrist Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley), who is also a customer of his. He also starts seeing Dr. Squires' stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), who just recently started paying attention to him despite being a classmate and customer of his for a while.

Written and directed by Jonathan Levine, "The Wackness" is a coming of age dramedy starring Josh Peck who plays Luke, a pot dealer, who has just graduated high school. He is planning on going to college, but first he is going to spend his summer dealing weed and trying to cope with the mounting trouble he is having at home with his parents. Luke deals pot to a psychiatrist named Dr. Squires, played by Ben Kingsly, who exchanges therapy sessions for dime bags. Dr. Squires' advice for Luke is to find a woman and get laid. What Squires didn't expect was for the target of Luke's affections to be his stepdaughter Stephanie, played by Olivia Thirlby. Stephanie has been a customer of Luke's for a long time, but has just recently started paying attention to him because all of her friends are off gallivanting on vacation in far away places over the summer.

This is a story all about the character of Luke and how he has to deal with so many changes in his life at at the same time. He has just graduated, his parents are having financial troubles and are in danger of losing their apartment, which means they argue all the time, which is really taking a toll on him, and on top of all of this, he finds himself falling in love with a girl who may not feel the same way. This is enough to make anyone have problems. The entire film is set against the backdrop of New York, which itself is a character of the film as hot, sweaty days turn into warm summer nights to the point where you can taste the city and feel like you're right there in the thick of it. Even in 2008, treating the setting of New York as a character was kind of cliché, but we digress. Josh Peck is really great as Luke, who is a sympathetic character, a guy who knows he probably shouldn't invest so much of his time in the wrong girl, but as all of the elements of the universe align in his favor, he finds himself drawn more and more to Steph as his mounting personal problems take a backseat to spending time with her. Olivia Thrilby is also good as Steph, a character we as the audience know isn't interested in Luke, but leads him on anyway.

"The Wackness" is all about every kind of relationships, and none are stranger than the one between Luke and Dr. Squires, who seems very terrible at his job and not mentally stable himself, though they say you go into psychiatry or psychology to work out your own deep-seeded issues, so who knows? Needless to say, Squires doesn't give the best advice, but what he does give Luke is a friendship that means a lot of both of them, even if they don't show or say it. The film delves deep into the issue of how relationships, be they friendships, sexual ones, or familial ones, shape you as a person and pave your path in life. It mixes all of this dramatic context with the occasional humorous moment, but is mainly reliant on how the audience feels about the characters. As for us, we might not always gripped by them or their situations, but we still feel invested in where it's going to end. The writing within the screenplay is great, but in execution, it's moderately interesting though not fully engaging. We look at Luke's life and can relate on some level, but in the grand scheme of it all, his issues may appear rather trivial to some. Such is life for a mid-class white kid, we guess.

At the heart of "The Wackness," it's a decent coming-of-age dramedy about unconventional relationships. Ben Kingsley is absolutely nuts as Dr. Squires, but he nails his performance. Josh Peck and Olivia Thrilby are mostly great here. Though it can all get a bit silly, it's a worthwhile movie about summer in New York in the 1990's with a lot of callbacks to the era in terms of music, terminology, clothing, and many other references.

My Rating: 6.5/10
BigJ's Rating: 6/10
IMDB's Rating: 7.0/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 69%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
Last summer, we were watching"American Graffiti"

Two summers ago, we were watching"Piranha"

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