The Wackness is a film by Jonathan Levine and starring Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Famke Janssen and Olivia Thirlby. The film is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and was released in the U.S. on July 3, 2008.
It's the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip hop. Luke (Josh Peck
) is a socially uncomfortable teenage pot
dealer with no friends, issues with his parents, and a whopping lack of confidence with girls. He trades weed for sessions with his therapist, Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley
), whose wife (Famke Janssen
) is slipping away from him. Squires - a drug-addled shrink with a retreating hairline and a state of mind slouching back to adolescence - is a terrible role model. But the two of them forge a friendship based on a mutual need: neither one has a girl friend. The intergenerational duo set off on a crawl that takes them all over New York, where they encounter several of Luke's "business associates," including a dreadlocked pixie (Mary-Kate Olsen
), a one-hit-wonder (Jane Adams
), and Luke's supplier (Method Man
). Luke has long had an aching crush on Dr. Squires' way-out-of-his-league stepdaughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby
), and is stunned at his good luck when she returns his affections. Luke's innocent first love experience with Stephanie becomes a life lesson that sets him on the pathway towards adulthood. And when Squires breaks down, it is up to the younger man to throw the older one a lifeline.
"Sometimes it's right to do the wrong things."
"The girls were fly. The music was dope. And Luke was just trying to deal."
Filming wrapped up on August 24
. The Wackness
was awarded the Audience Award for Dramatic Film at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival
Roger Ebert gave the movie 3 out of 4 stars. On Metacritic
, the movie gathered a general score of 61.
Jonathan Levine claims the movie is semi-autobiographical. "'I wish I could say that I sold pot and I had a shrink like Ben Kingsley, but no, it wasn't like that,' admits Jonathan Levine . . . 'It's the details and the backdrop, and a lot of the perspective of this kid and the way that he looks at the world,' explains Levine . . . .'The Stephanie character, I guess, is a composite of a few different ladies who broke up with me,' Levine says with a laugh. 'That happened.'"
The movie is not in fact based on the biographical essay of an actual Mr. Shapiro, who had sold pot in New York around the time the movie is based in, and whose family dysfunction resulted in an isolated and anti social upbringing, including the issues of sex portrayed in the movie, culminating in psychiatric counseling sessions.
Excerpts from the essay, circulated in 2004 among social circles and fraternal networks, read as follows:
"In college I drifted aimlessly. Simultaneously making me happy, pot made me content, complacent... and docile... Creeping over me was the feeling that I would soon be expected to provide for myself, and college would not provide refuge; I no longer had a place in academics. I devised an utterly crackpot plan. I would return to New York and become a musician."
"Family counseling consisted of visiting a psychiatrist at his office. No discussion of my past was made. He simply picked up the lecture where my father left off. Speaking slowly, mouth indefinitely curled around the last pronounced syllable as if tying to convey a child's logic to an infant together with his pointed stare, the quack intoned his one-way discussions.
According to a review in the Dallas Morning News:
"Beyond what worked tonewise, a lot of it speaks to what's going on in the movie," Mr. Levine said during a visit to Dallas last month. "There's that 'Heaven & Hell' song [by Raekwon] when Josh is up on a water tower looking down, and it's asking, 'Is high school heaven or is it hell?' And 'Can I Kick It?' [by A Tribe Called Quest] plays when Kingsley's trying to kick drugs. So a lot of it just kind of worked thematically."
Mr. Levine targeted the most iconic acts of the era, with Notorious B.I.G. on the top of his list. Luke and Stephanie bond in Central Park over beer and the sounds of his classic debut album, Ready to Die. "The What," a song from that album featuring Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man, who also appears in the film as Luke's supplier, leads off the soundtrack . . . . Mr. Levine says he considered expanding the film's sonic landscape to include Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins, two of the year's biggest non-hip-hop acts, and that the original ending featured Nirvana's "Lithium."
Ultimately, tough choices refined the film's reach, which isn't such a bad thing. But that doesn't mean it was easy passing that other music up.
- "The What" -- The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Method Man
- "You Used To Love Me" -- Faith Evans
- "Flava In Ya Ear" -- The Notorious B.I.G., Craig Mack, Rampage, LL Cool J and Busta Rhymes
- "Summertime" -- DJ Jazzy Jeff and The Fresh Prince
- "Can't You See" -- Total feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
- "I Can't Wake Up" -- KRS-One
- "The World Is Yours" -- Nas
- "Can I Kick It?" -- A Tribe Called Quest
- "Heaven & Hell" -- Raekwon
- "Bump N' Grind" -- R. Kelly
- "Just A Friend" -- Biz Markie
- "Tearz" -- Wu-Tang Clan
- "Long Shot Kick De Bucket" -- The Pioneers
Songs Not Released on the Soundtrack
- "Disarm" -- Smashing Pumpkins
- "Bonita Applebum" -- A Tribe Called Quest
- "93 'til Infinity" -- Souls Of Mischief
- "Lost At Birth" -- Public Enemy
- "It Was A Good Day" -- Ice Cube
- "They Reminisce Over You (T.R.O.Y.)" -- Pete Rock and CL Smooth
- "Electric Relaxation" -- A Tribe Called Quest
- "C.R.E.A.M."--Wu-Tang Clan
- "Out on the Weekend"--Neil Young
- "Around The Way"--LL Cool J
- "Things Done Changed"--The Notorious B.I.G.
- "All the Young Dudes"--Mott the Hoople
Revolver Books published a novelization of the film, written by Dale C. Phillips.