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  • Writer's pictureJames Rutherford

'The Wackness': The Colorful Tale of a Young Man's Coming-of-Age in 1990's-era New York City

Movie poster for the 2008 film The Wackness

The Wackness (2008) is a colorful and charming comedy-drama starring Josh Peck as Luke Shapiro, a street smart New Yorker experiencing a pivotal transition in the summer of 1994. With college looming in the fall, Luke works the sweltering streets of the city selling marijuana—chief amongst his clientele being Dr. Jeffery Squires (Ben Kingsley), an eccentric psychiatrist who becomes Luke's close confidante.

Socially limited outside of the drug trade, Luke exchanges pot for therapy sessions from Squires, who counsels him on life and maturation—while barely holding together his crumbling marriage to disaffected wife Kristin (Famke Janssen). Luke and Squires bond over their shared appreciation of cannabis and the Notorious B.I.G. while Luke pines for Squires' step-daughter Steph (Olivia Thirlby), his high school classmate similarly stuck in the city for the summer. Luke and Steph soon develop a romantic relationship that provides Luke's first taste of young love, while his camaraderie with Squires remains the bedrock of this singular tale of self-discovery.

Written and directed by Jonathan Levine (50/50, Nine Perfect Strangers), The Wackness is a pleasantly fresh nostalgia trip, particularly well-suited for those with vivid memories of the mid-1990's. Peck and Kingsley deliver the goods as a pair of mismatched compatriots, each experiencing dramatic tumult at disparate stages of life, yet united by their mutual interests and agreeable dispositions. With a grade-A soundtrack and a cavalcade of laugh-out-loud indiscretions, it's a delightful hip-hop coming-of-age story.


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