Have you ever noticed how loads of Hollywood directors want to be auteurs? They are all desperate to have a style, an allusion to or angle on the past that makes them edgy and different and guarantees them a spot in the Holywood hall of fame. I certainly have, and it is thus refreshing that I can finally watch a film that surpasses all expectations for its genre.
The Wackness is set in the 1990s and tells the story of a teenage drug dealer who is having a bit of a tough time. Mainly because he's a loner and he's horny, but he has family issues, too. Luckily, however, one of his best customers is a psychiatrist (Kingsley) with whom he strikes up an expected bond. But little could he have predicted that he would end up doing more of the counseling that his professional pal. OK, so maybe it sounds a bit like another post-Juno festival of pretentiousness, and some critics have branded it as such, but they're just wrong. Plain and simple.
Of course there are the comic moments you'd expect from such a carefully selected duo (I avoid the word "contrived" deliberately) but these are far from the incomprehensible witticisms of Juno; instead, we're treated to classic lines like the moment in a prison cell when Kingsley asks his cellmate "what're you in here for?" only to be mortified by the reply "I stabbed my wife in the pussy". But the bottom line is just that Levine has made the film he has been thinking about for ages, and wasn't afraid to do what felt right in the moment. Whether it's emotional close-ups, gritty Kids-esque part scenes or paving slabs light up as Luke Shapiro dances cheerily across them it always feels right — and that's totally to the film's credit. What could have been a tired and unoriginal concept becomes an emotional ride that's a joy to watch. It's also a joy to listen to with a soundtrack jam packed with classic 90s tunes that'll make you start pining for your old baseball cap and high tops. This really is a great movie, miss it at your peril.
EXTRAS ** The featurette Time in a Bottle: Behind the Scenes of The Wackness, deleted scenes and the theatrical trailer. An audio commentary would have been nice, though.