Thursday, July 17, 2008

Dart Adams presents The Dartflix Film Review: The Wackness

"The Wackness" is the brainchild of writer/director Johnathan Levine (All The Boys Love Mandy Lane) and it details the events following Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) after his graduation from high school and the long hot summer of 1994. Luke is an outcast at school and he desperately wants to shed his virginity...hopefully with his hot high school classmate Stephanie Squires (Olivia Thirlby of "Juno" fame). Just one problem...shorty is the step-daughter of one of his clients, Dr. Shapiro (Sir Ben Kingsley). Doc is a nutcase psychologist that blows more trees than a goddamn hurricane and acts less mature than 18 year old Luke.

Luke is simply seen as "the dude with weed" by his peers and his home life is type fucked up so he retreats into his walkman and plays joints by A Tribe Called Quest, De La Soul, The Pharcyde and several other groups as a means of coping with the world around him. As Luke sells his weed in Mayor Ad..Rudolf Guliani's New New York he contemplates how he can snap out of his "loser" funk, possibly sell enough weed to bail his family out of a financial crisis and pay for college. Stephanie Squires is so out of his league in his mind that she isn't even a serious option to entertain.

Luke Shapiro graduates from high school and now he has his whole life ahead of him. As he sees it if he doesn't make moves and take control of it now he's gonna end up mired in some depressing personal situation like his own parents are down the line. Luke doesn't wanna be like his parents (or Stephanie's for that matter) so he has to be more assertive. He's gonna pump chronic like nobody's business from his ice cream cart and try to find a girl willing to have sex with him before the summer's out. Doc Squires gives Luke some advice but it's about as useful as a fishnet condom.

When Luke talks to his connect Percy (Method Man) about not wanting to grow up to do the same dumb shit that his parents did, Percy explains to him that the more you try to not be like them the more likely it is to happen. Luke gets kinda depressed that his life will just end up being a bleak existence filled with a dead end job, unhappy spouse and general heartache and misery. Percy also hits him off with a copy of what will become the soundtrack to Luke's long hot summer of self discovery: Notorious B.I.G.'s "Ready To Die".

Luke runs into Stephanie after having a not so productive session with Doc Squires (who exchanges pyschoanalysis for weed) and they chill together for the afternoon as Luke takes her with him as he slings bud all over the place to his clientele. Afterwards, she gives Luke her number and he's just dumbfounded. Then again, most of her friends have gone out of state for the summer and she's bored at her summer job interning at an office. Luke thinks that this is his chance to turn his "loser streak" around and get out of his self imposed funk. The Doc doesn't agree.

During the time Doc is supposedly helping Luke to finally "get some" he seems to be using the situation as an excuse to go out with Luke and do some dumb shit that he's about 30-40 years removed from. Watching the Doc push up on Mary Kate Olson's hippie chick character was hella creepy, watching her respond to him was creepier. Seeing the look on Luke's face when he catches them about to smash? Priceless.

Doc Squires tries to tell Luke not to invest too much in a possible relationship with his stepdaughter/Luke's dreamgirl because she's just a bored chick with nothing else to do and she'll break his heart when all is said and done because they have nothing in common besides smoking weed and going to the same high school and "she isn't for him". Luke even tells Stephanie that's she's "mad out of his league" and questions why she bothers with it a surprise why homie's still a virgin asking questions like that?

Luke just thinks that Doc Squires is hating and continues with the relationship. Doc Squires own marriage is on the rocks and Luke's parents marriage is eroding as every night he comes home to arguing that he blocks out by playing his Hip Hop loud as possible. Will Luke become more than the "weed dealer" tag he earned in high school? Will he get the girl? Will Doc Squires ever give him some advice that isn't way off base or totally hypocritical?

This movie is yet another coming of age tale that is more involved and complex than the trailers or marketing campaigns would lead you to believe. I watched this whole movie waiting for a line that incensed M. Dot of Model Minority and caused her to get up and walk out of the film to see what context it was used in. I did finally hear the line in question...when there were just more than 3 minutes left to go in the entire film (not including the credits).

I took it to mean that since Luke and Stephanie's "relationship" was obviously doomed from the start and since Luke was such a Hip Hop head he should go after a chick that actually shared his many Hip Hop culture related interests. (It's also followed by "I didn't get the chance to", which insinuates that Black girls aren't easy in my opinion). Given that at the time the character that said that particular line (Doc Squires), he was notorious for giving horrible/borderline useless advice, being highly hypocritical and was fresh off of several suicide attempts and a weekend long drug bender the line just didn't bother me given the the context and the tone of the entire film up to that time.

This is coming from someone who still hasn't made it past 15 minutes of "The Departed" because I was pissed off both at the beginning during Costello's voiceover and again when DiCaprio's character tells Anthony Anderson's character that he's in Hell because he's a Black man in Boston. I've been one for 32 years now and I take offense to the fact that there are no films about the Black/Latino/Asian experience growing up in or living in Boston to tell another side of the story and give the idea that Boston is the Jena, LA of the North or some shit.

I give "The Wackness" a highly recommended maybe because this film still does seem a little forced in some areas with the content and dialogue where it tries to create the feel and flavor of early to mid 90's New York. If I really want to see those times captured authentically I'll just watch "Kids". This joint will probably make it to my DVD collection somehow, though.


1 comment:

Rebecca V. O'Neal said...

i haven't seen the movie yet, but I read the script and it's really well written. the world it created is very believable and realistic. i'm looking forward to seeing it this week.

makes me want to pick up the pen again.

i think josh levine, the writer/director, has a great future ahead of him.

this is poised to be the biggest indie film this year.

there has been virtually no tv/radio promo for this movie and its buzz is building exponentially. but word of mouth and blogs have really done wonders for this little movie that could.