Days of Summer #11: Jonathan Levine’s “The Wackness” (2008)

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In my book, there’s a distinct difference between “Summer Movies” and “Movies to Watch During Summer”, although they’re not mutually exclusive terms. While the term “Summer Movie” denotes a big-budget Hollywood blockbuster released during the months of May, June, July, or August, it is typically the case that these films have very little to do with the actual season. In this feature, I’ll be ranting and raving about my favorite “Movies to Watch During Summer”, to anybody who cares to listen.

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The Wackness (2008, Dir: Jonathan Levine)

The Wackness is one of those films that you want to recommend to everyone you know. The soundtrack! The dialogue! The Ben Kingsley!

Set in 1994 New York, teen pot dealer Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) finds himself alone in the city for the summer with only his stony therapist Dr. Squires (Kinglsey) to keep him company. After a chance encounter with Squires’ beautiful daughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), Shapiro thinks he’s in love, but his naiveté soon catches up with him. All the while, writer-director Jonathan Levine cranks up the nostalgia factor with some warm post-production color grading and classic 90’s rap songs from The Notorious B.I.G., A Tribe Called Quest, Raekwon, and many others.

While the film could be described as a romantic dramedy, the real romance of the film here is Peck and Kingsley, who prove to have incredible chemistry. Kingsley in particular should have been nominated for an Oscar for his work here, but instead was nominated for a Razzie for Worst Supporting Actor because he happened to appear in The Love Guru the same yearHow frustrating it must be for Kingsley to turn in a Sexy Beast level performance, only to receive snarks.

Awards are meaningless. Dr. Squires forever.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0lAmCBq9yeQ]

 

Best Way to Watch: Throw it on while reeling from your summer lovesickness. It won’t cure your blues, but misery loves company.

Best Paired With: Fresh and delicious ices.

Further Viewing: Greg Mottola‘s Adventureland is another underrated coming-of-age gem from the late 2000’s.  Mismarketed as a Judd Apatow style raunch-com, the film has more in common with the downbeat Wackness than anything out of the Apatow factory, complete with a nostalgic summer setting, a great soundtrack, and strong turns from a great young cast, including a pre-Social Network Jesse Eisenberg, a surprisingly dark turn from Ryan Reynolds, and Twilight‘s Kristin Stewart demonstrating that she can act when given an actual character to play.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gfPE_MEKipM]

 

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Categories: Features, Reviews

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