While most films attempt to capture the life and style of the past, very few are ever able to fully recognize and transition the work into a flawless representation. Fortunately, every now and then, a film like The Wackness comes along, sending us back in time to relive the memories and hardships that occurred during the period.
Set in 1994, The Wackness takes a stab at the hip-hop frenzy that was sweeping across the streets in New York City. Rudy Giuliani had just been elected mayor, and he was still in the beginning stages of cracking down on the 'fun' crimes like loud music, graffiti, public drunkenness and drugs.
As the film begins, audience members are introduced to the two main characters of the story, Luke and Dr. Squires. Together, the men share two separate relationships: That of patient client and another of dealer client. However, as the film progresses, a third relationship of friendship begins to develop; a relationship that neither party wants to admit to or recognize.
You see, Luke (played earnestly by Nickelodeon star Josh Peck) is a total misfit. Stuck in a difficult time in his life, Luke has no friends, immense problems with his parents and a repelling lack of confidence when it comes to the opposite sex. Luke feels that he needs to get laid in order to be happy, and that is one thing that Dr. Squires can relate to.
Played by Sir Ben Kingsley, Dr. Squires is the ideal representation of a complete mess-up. Having never really amounted to anything in life, Squires is the last man that should be giving advice. However, due to a doctorate degree and the ability to prescribe medication, he is open for business.
In theory the two men repel one another; yet, somehow, they pair brilliantly within the confines of the story, working off each other perfectly and creating the ultimate duo.
In addition, audience members are able to see Juno star Olivia Thirlby light up the screen as Squire's step-daughter, Stephanie. Trapped by a bland home life and a strange relationship with her step-father, Stephanie seeks the freedom of drugs. Home alone all summer, Stephanie confides in Luke and his pot-selling ways, seeing potential and excitement from his 'job' and filling a lonely void that has formed within her.
However, it isn't the character of Stephanie that is so intriguing but the way she is brought to life by Thirlby. Using sudden movement and the complicated act of flirtation, Thirlby creates a popular but insecure character in Stephanie. She knows what she wants; however, she always seems hesitant to go after it. And what I find truly remarkable is the way Thirlby is able to make her seem as if she is truly living in the moment, yet giving subtle signs of a safe and apprehensive woman. Her actions are almost always preplanned and seem to never take her by surprise, leading audience members to believe that the entire summer was mapped out from beginning to end.
As the film progresses and the relationships continue to blossom on screen, you quickly begin to realize that the movie is about so much more than a growing friendship. Instead, it is about a time and a place in the world where change was constantly occurring and memories were being made by the minute.
What I found so impressive about the film was its ability to capture the aroma and personalities that existed during 1994. From the doped up hippies to the hip-hop fanatics, the year was a time of radical change for Americans nationwide. However, a political change was occurring in New York, and director Jonathan Levine was able to bring that change to the forefront of the story and provide audiences with a peaceful and tranquil showing of its effects on different people.
All the while, Levine was able to create a replica of the time. From the music, which compiles to form an amazing soundtrack that should be heard by one and all, to the cinematography, everything looked and felt old fashion. The clothes were horrid yet respectable for the time period and sadly, the way of life was accurately represented.
Unfortunately, the represented change was a little too subtle within the confines of the overbearing relationship story between both Luke and Dr. Squires and Luck and Stephanie. Throughout the feature, both aspects of the story continued to pull and tug at one another, never allowing you to get wrapped up in the characters and never allowing the story to come alive and serve its ultimate purpose. Instead, audience members are entertained solely on the recollection of the time and the all too familiar scenery that graces the screen throughout. Thus making this film a slightly above average film that did carry potential and contained all the necessary pieces to become and iconic classic. Regrettably, it just didn't capitalize.