Jonathan Levine’s follow-up to the surprisingly good horror film All the Boys Love Mandy Lane is another voyage into nostalgic romanticism and teenage growing pains. This time Levine is pining for his lost youth with a film set in 1994, an era defined mainly by the hip hop soundtrack featuring Notorious BIG and A Tribe Called Quest.
At the heart of the picture is an unlikely friendship between teenager Luke (Josh Peck) and drug-addicted psychotherapist Dr Squires (Ben Kingsley). It’s the summer before Luke ventures to university and he’s struggling to make the transition from adolescence to adulthood. Luke is also a small-time drug dealer, an occupation that gives him an insight into the local neighbourhood and Levine a great excuse to sketch (just) pre-Giuliani New York in all its colour and decrepitude. He tells himself that he’s dealing to pay for college but in truth it’s the only kick he gets out of a life of nothingness and sexual frustration. In total contrast Squires is regressing into adolescence. His marriage is on the rocks and he craves attention. The friendship between man and boy becomes estranged when Luke starts seeing Squire’s stepdaughter Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby).
As unoriginal and cliché-ridden as Levine’s screenplay is, he has taken care in developing some genuinely attractive off the wall characters (much helped by terrific performances from Peck and Kingsley). At its core The Wackness is a tender and poignant story of cross-generational friendship.
General release from Fri 29 Aug.