Friday, July 25, 2024

The Wackness

The Wackness has a scene where a character explains the title during the film. The trailer makes it look like a coming of age film for a kid (Josh Peck as Luke Shapiro) who deals pot in the big city. But it's just as much about the mid-life crisis being faced by stoner psychiatrist Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley). On a side note: in New York City, which includes Wackness's locations, you can call a number and someone will deliver pot to your door. So it's not a stretch to conceive of a kid who deals out of a portable hot dog stand.
When Luke wants to lose his virginity with Squires' step daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby, last seen in Snow Angles) complications ensue. Fortunately for Luke, even though the good doctor warns that Stephanie will become bored with him, Squires sees the world with a live and let live attitude. That goes a long way in explaining why we see Squires join Luke on a bar binge where Squires makes out with Mary-Kay Olsen (22 passing for 18) in a phone booth and then the duo get busted for tagging walls and possession. The entire series of events takes place in 1994 so there are repeated references to Mayor Giuliani and his fascist policies to clean up the city.
Director Jonathan Levine previously gave us All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, a teen horror flick, which made out on the film festival circuit but didn't really produce a theatrical splash. For The Wackness Levine is interested in playing with tone. All the shrink sessions are shot in low key light with high contrast fill. Intimate scenes, like one played out between Luke and Stephanie, are duo chromatic. Many exterior shots look bleached out, further heightening Levine's art film cred but also making The Wackness feel like a dramedy rather than a stoner comedy.


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