My first NON-horror movie review! I will be doing a lot more of these, but sometimes it is hard to break out from my favorite genre. This is a fun one though. When I am not watching horror movies or something totally depressing, I love a good coming-of-age tale. Most chick flicks aren’t my thing but movies like this are funny and romantic, interweaving realism and drama. The Wackness is a quality film that I wanted to share because I don’t think a lot of people know about this one. Everyone can relate to a coming-of-age story, whether you have done drugs or not in this case. This movie captures New York City youth life in the 90’s.
It’s about growing up, first experiences, parents, divorce, money, emotion, depression, and everything in-between. Luke Shapiro, played by Josh Peck, has just graduated from high school and has a whole summer on his hands before college. What now? Sell drugs, of course. He comes from a poor family and has never been the cool kid, but he sure can sell some “mad” dope. Shapiro thinks he’s depressed, like a lot of teenagers think they do. He sees therapist Dr. Squires, played by the wonderful Ben Kingsley, who he pays with marijuana for their sessions. Both unorthodox, they believe sometimes its right to do the wrong thing, and right now is one of those times. With Dr. Squires’ immaturity and Shapiro having to deal with grown-up issues, an unlikely friendship forms between the two.
It’s about first love, first heartbreak, the disappointment of sex, the greatness of sex. To make matters even more convoluted, Shapiro is in love with Dr. Squires’ step-daughter, Stephanie. She never gave him the time of day in school, but now she is bored and finds interest in his “job”. Shapiro is like an unconventional therapist himself – taking care of his customers, gaining their trust, listening to their issues, and dispensing medications/drugs.
It’s about questioning the meaning of life. When Shapiro and Dr. Squires’ intimate relationships crumple, they turn to each other – friends, confidants, and partners-in-crime (literally). Shapiro has a shitty outlook on life. Instead of seeing the dopeness, he sees the wackness. But he and Dr. Squires learn to embrace the pain, feel everything, and live life. Baby steps. It will be ok.
The best part of this movie though is the amazing soundtrack – a delicious culmination of nineties hip-hop. Music is good for the soul, regardless of genre. This movie places an emphasis on that and a bonding of generations. I bought the soundtrack after I saw this movie for the first time. I also read the novel shortly after and discovered that Jonathan Levine both wrote the book and directed the movie. He is also the director of Warm Bodies and 50/50. These movies, along with The Wackness, combine comedy and drama seamlessly.
It reminds me of how it feels to be that age again. The hurt and the importance of it all: the struggles of adolescence, the confessions of love, the shock of heartbreak. Fuck the world. I love you, I hate you, I love you, I hate you. It really is a funny and endearing movie. Each of the characters are precisely developed with their passions, fears, and idiosyncrasies pronounced. Shapiro is an authentic, sensitive, and thoughtful character. Watch this if you want to smile and laugh. But remember: never trust anyone who doesn’t like dogs.
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