The Wackness

  • Year:2008
  • Rating:MA
  • Director:Jonathan Levine
  • Cast:Famke Janssen, Ben Kingsley, Mary-Kate Olsen, Josh Peck, Olivia Thirlby
  • Release Date:November 13, 2008
  • Distributor:Madman
  • Running time:99 minutes
  • Film Worth:$13.00
  • FILMINK rates movies out of $20 - the score indicates the amount we believe a ticket to the movie to be worth

“…gently humorous and beautifully moving…”

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The Wackness opens in a psychiatrist's office, but it's hardly your standard consultation. Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) is getting paid for his services with marijuana. He's also developing an odd-couple friendship with his depressed patient - hip hop loving, dope dealing teenage loner Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck). Part of Luke's therapy, his shrink says bluntly, is to go and get laid. The unlikely friendship between doctor and patient becomes complicated when Luke wants to fulfill that prescription with Squires' step-daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby).

Writer/director Jonathan Levine uses a soft focus and toned down palette to recreate his 1994 New York setting, and he succeeds in transporting the audience to this fuzzy, post-high school summer. The hip hop soundtrack never intrudes, and there's good support from Famke Janssen as Squires' bored, chain-smoking wife. Mary-Kate Olsen, however, is a distraction as a dreadlocked flower child. Young actor/comedian Josh Peck's understated performance is excellent, while Olivia Thirlby builds on the good will she inspired as Ellen Page's best pal in Juno. Ben Kingsley, however, steals the show. This incredible chameleon physically transforms himself once again, and gets right inside Squires' skin. With a goatee and a Harvey Keitel-inspired haircut, Squires is an unkempt, tragicomic character, yet there's wisdom beneath the eccentric exterior. Give Kingsley another Oscar - he deserves it.

This is a gently humorous and beautifully moving film. It meanders in the second half, but comes back with a strong dramatic climax and quietly profound conclusion - The Wackness says something about how to navigate through rough emotional seas. The top notch screenplay and performances make it obvious why this won the audience vote at Sundance this year. These characters may lead messy lives, but they make for great company.

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