On paper, The Wackness sounds like it should be a terrible movie.
The film is an ode to Hip-Hop and features a mostly all-white, middle-class set of characters. It stars Ben Kingsley (known for playing serious roles like Gandhi) as a drugged out lunatic. Method Man is a patois-speaking drug dealer. And one of the Olsen twins is in it. But somehow director Jonathan Levine has managed to create a charming, hilarious and sometimes heart-breaking film about the search for companionship while dealing with personal demons…and being really high.
Luke Shapiro is a New Yorker on his way to college, trying to make the tough transition in the midst of familial struggles and a desperate need to overcome his social ineptitude in order to lose his virginity. Oh yea, he sells drugs out of a ice cream cart. He uses dimebags to pay for appointments from his equally disturbed psychiatrist who is played by Kingsley. The two guide one another through their heartbreak. The chemistry between the two actors is a delight to see as the generation gap is bridged by the similar underlying insecurities they both possess. Kingsley, though, is the star of the film as his drug-induced wackiness is a refreshing break from his serious past roles and is sure to get some consideration when Oscar nominees goes out.
The reason that this movie is getting a TSS review is the fact that it has been marketed as some sort of Hip-Hop-centric film set in 1994. While this characterization is slightly embellished, Hip-Hop music does work well as a backdrop to the emotional trials the characters face. For example, “Can I Kick It?” plays as the Kingsley’s character contemplates his drug usage. Characters frequently discuss Hip-Hop and the unforgettable moment when you first heard Ready To Die is accurately captured in a scene between Luke and his connect (played by Method Man). Though the film is set in 1994, a wide array of tracks from throughout the early 90’s appears. It’s also refreshing to think of a time when high school kids were jammin’ to Tribe and Wu-Tang Clan. But don’t get it twisted. The Wackness is not a Hip-Hop flick that delves deep into the genre. Instead, the movie is an accurate and honest portrayal of the awkward and sometimes depressing moments that we’ve all faced no matter the age bracket.
The Wackness is one of the better movies of the year and features a superb acting performance from Ben Kingsley. Definitely go out and try to see this flick if you can.