Thursday, March 05, 2009

The Wackness

Ben Kingsley stars in a little movie called The Wackness, which refers to a conversation Kingsley, as psychiatrist Dr. Jeffrey Squires, has with his young friend, a high school student named Luke Shapiro. The Wackness is that depression that Luke deals with, that perhaps we all deal with.

They strike up a strange friendship. We identify "strange" by the fact that Dr. Squires trades counseling for dope. It seems that Luke has a lucrative pot-dealing business going in The Big Apple. And strange because the shrink does a lot of weed as he counsels. They're an interesting pair, both screwed up in different ways.

The Wackness captures the spirit of 1994 Big Apple, when Mayor Rudy Giuliani takes over and makes life miserable for drug-dealers and drug-smokers. It's a time of pagers, not cell phones. And in this city, not cars but a lot of walking and standing around. The music is alive in the city: hip hop is beginning to rule. Kurt Cobain just died.

But the movie is really about a friendship between the two, one that grows in spite of the fact that Luke wants to date Dr. Squires' step-daughter.

I liked the movie because I grew to care a lot about Luke, played ably by young actor Josh Peck. Only good writing and good acting can bring the viewer to that place. And the sense of humor in the piece is refreshing. However, the movie is offbeat, to put it mildly, and there's a lot of depressive standing around. It certainly may not be for everyone, but I found it quite affecting.

Thumb's up.



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