Being a teenager is tough. But being a teenager whose house is being evicted because his father lost his job, is worse. And being a teenager who has to sell drugs to save his house at a time when his ‘friends’ are falling in love, and well, getting laid, is probably the worst thing that could happen to you, if you were that teenager.
Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is that teenager. One who’s ‘not a virgin, but just hasn’t officially had sex yet’. One, who barters drugs to a shrink, Dr Squires (Ben Kingsley) in exchange for counseling sessions – in every one of which, he’s asked to get laid. One, who just looks at the wackness of things, but not the dopeness.
The Wackness is about Luke Shapiro, about Dr Squires, about falling in love, about getting your heart broken, about figuring s**t out, about growing up, about coming-of-age. At the same time, it is also about the streets of New York in 1994 and about hip hop music as it was and as it should be. But mostly, it is about the arrival of a bright, clever and insightful young writer-director Jonathan Levine on the American indie movie scene, one whose film doesn’t say too much but still says everything … in a language that’s just ‘dope’.
Levine’s second movie, after the random slasher flick, All The Boys Love Mandy Lane, won an award at The Sundance Film Festival for Dramatic Film, although it’s probably the fresh wit of the film that won over the hearts of the jury. The movie centers on the peculiar relationship between Shapiro and Dr Squires (portrayed brilliantly by the two actors), a relationship that would perhaps be ‘friendship’ were the two of the same age, or if either of the two were mature.
But while the movie is about the coming of age of Shapiro, who has an impossibly pessimistic way of looking at his world and for good reason, it is as much about the coming of age of Dr Squires, who has an impossibly optimistic way of looking at the same world… or perhaps, he’s just stoned. One is yet to grow up, while the other definitely hasn’t.
And in this comedic scheme of things, lies a wonderful movie about hope. That it’s great to have your heart broken, to find yourself face down in the gutter and to make a real mess of your life. That it’s sometimes right to do the wrong things. That it’s always the time to live. And it’s ALWAYS the time to get laid!
Starring: Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Olivia Thirlby, Famke Janssen, Mary-Kate Olsen, Method Man
Written By: Jonathan Levine
Directed By: Jonathan Levine
Note: This recommendation first appeared in MTV Noise Factory, July 2011 issue
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