The Wackness

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Posted July 3, 2008 in Film

For writer-director Jonathan Levine, setting his coming-of-age flick in 1994 New York isn’t just a stroke of kitsch à la Kicking It Old Skool. Levine makes a strong argument that it was the year of the decade: Clinton got inaugurated, Giuliani hollowed and buffed Manhattan, Tonya Harding and OJ got arrested, and both the Notorious BIG and Lollapalooza were born. And Luke (Josh Peck of Nickelodeon’s Drake and Josh, eight at the time), a just-graduated high school senior, is too caught up in his own inertia to notice; he can’t even spin being a cute pot dealer into popularity. His therapist Dr. Squires (a riotous Ben Kingsley) accepts dime bags as payment and pushes vicarious advice like “Get laid,” before taking Luke out for a beer and using his stories about traveling with the Dead to cheat on wife Famke Janssen with a hippified Mary- Kate Olsen wearing her weight in blonde dreads. Levine has a shorthand approach to capturing the era. Opines Luke on fake friends: “One week they’re listening to Kris Kross, the next there’s listening to Pearl Jam”; later, when failing to convince the doc to prescribe him anti-depressants, he’s asked “Does this have anything to do with Kurt Cobain’s death?” But when Luke plunges himself into a doomed relationship with the doctor’s super-cool daughter (a radiant Olivia Thirlby), Levine nails the swirling energy of first heartbreak as the teen rehearses his first Big Moment, trying out variations from “I love you” to “You know I got mad love for you girl.” (Amy Nicholson) 

 


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