“…has this got something to do with Kurt Cobain?” The Wackness (Jonathan Levine, 2008)

the wackness

Go see The Wackness. I recommend it because it has the best compiled soundtrack in years. I knew practically every song in this movie and they are all good. The first 20 minutes alone treated me to KRS One, A Tribe Called Quest and Raekwon. I could write a whole review based on the tracks in this movie, they are all perfectly selected. Not only was there my favourite hip-hop song of all time, Souls of Mischief’s classic 93 ‘til infinity, (not Wu Tang’s C.R.E.A.M although its in there too) but also one of my favourite Neil Young songs, Out on the Weekend. Neil Young and Wu Tang in the same film? Trust me it works. Right, now the film itself.

The Wackness is set in 1994, another reason I liked it. People bag the 90s but I look back on them fondly and I can tell director Jonathan Levine does too. The physical setting is New York and the narrative is framed by one sweltering Big Apple summer. Ben Kingsley plays Dr. Squires, a pot-smoking psychiatrist, who exchanges appointments for weed with teenage drug-dealer Luke. They form a bond, which is complicated when Luke falls for Squires’ stepdaughter. The characters are the stereotypical, alienated-youth and ageing-adult-unhappy-with-his-lot .

Josh Peck is very likeable as Luke. Channelling looks that are a mash of Leo Fitzpatrick and Michael Pitt (although, this may be just because of his side-part) he makes a great troubled teen. I wasn’t sure how to feel about Kingsley, but I did warm to him, especially after he gets some great lines (when Luke says he’s depressed Kingsley asks “…has this got something to do with Kurt Cobain?”). Look out for an excellent drug-fuelled beach scene, when the disconnected psychiatrist dispenses some of the best advice I have ever heard. 

Levine has made a well-meaning film, which I think people will enjoy. As a writer his dialogue is solid and even when it becomes ‘cheesy’ he at least makes his characters reference the fact. The Wackness does suffer from strange fantasy sequences, and I have seen similar alienated-youth-falls-in-love films before. This said, Levine balances the comedy and the drama brilliantly and provides satisfying resolutions. That not enough? Method-Man plays a Jamaican drug dealer and Mary-Kate Olsen a wasted Hippie. Dope.

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