Urban Cinefile  
 The World of Film in Australia - on the Internet Updated Friday December 13, 2019 


New York City, 1994: a city pulsing with hip hop, a city whose new mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is using controversial methods to address homelessness and crime. Much like the city, Luke (Josh Peck) and Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley) are at a crossroads: Luke considers himself semi-suicidal, bemoaning his high school social status and the fact that his dysfunctional family is on the verge of eviction; Dr. Squires and his rehab-addicted wife (Famke Janssen) can barely tolerate each other. Luke and Squires help each other find happiness. However, Luke's attention turns to Dr. Squires' stepdaughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thrilby), which in turn, causes the already fragile Doctor to lose it completely...

Review by Andrew L. Urban:
Winner of the Audience Award for Best Feature at the Melbourne Film Festival (2008), The Wackness is a thoroughly engaging comic drama with absurdist elements - or is that just real life . . . The darkness of the story makes it cling to our attention as the characters - all flawed - stumble and bumble their emotional way through a series of crises of the spirit.

Josh Peck is great as the young man whose coming of age is charted with the kind of lonely pain that accompanies so many lives, whether in New York or not. His mood swings are part of the film's grip. Ben Kingsley seems to be channelling Harvey Keitel, but this isn't meant as a negative. A neat goatee, bigger than his usual hair and a sly Nu Yolk accent are rolled into a ball of tottering sanity, with edgy, pill popping, dope smoking overlay. He's sheer entertainment, and beneath the fun is a deep seated pain that grounds it, teased out by the brittle and long dead relationship with his equally unsteady wife, played immaculately by Famke Janssen.

As the young Stephanie, Olivia Thrilby is in form, with a complex characterisation that does nothing to help poor old (er, young) Luke to understand life or women.

It's a film of shifting moods, all of them accessible and sardonically funny. But it's not a film of belly laughs or broad comedic moments; the socio political setting gives it context and the direction gives it bite.

Email this article

Favourable: 1
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

(US, 2008)

CAST: Ben Kingsley, Famke Janssen, Josh Peck, Olivia Thrilby, Mary-Kate Olsen, Jane Adams, Method Man, Aaron Yoo

PRODUCER: Keith Calder, Felipe Marino, Joe Neurauter

DIRECTOR: Jonathan Levine

SCRIPT: Jonathan Levine


EDITOR: Josh Noyes

MUSIC: David Torn


RUNNING TIME: 96 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 13, 2008

Urban Cinefile 1997 - 2020