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The Wackness is a American coming of age comedy-drama film by Jonathan Levine and starring Ben Kingsley, Josh Peck, Famke Janssen, and Olivia Thirlby. The film is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics and was released in the U.S. on July 3, 2008.


New York Citymarker, 1994, Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) is trading marijuana in exchange for therapy from his Psychiatrist, Dr. Jeffery Squires (Ben Kingsley). Luke graduates from high school but while dealing at a party, he finds out that everyone is going to be away for the summer except he and his classmate, Stephanie (Olivia Thirlby), Dr. Squires' stepdaughter. When Luke returns home, he finds his parents arguing over money and their probable eviction.

Luke starts dealing more pot to make money for his family. After a session with Dr. Squires, he bumps into Steph and invites her to come with him dealing around the city. Steph has a great time and gives Luke her number so she will not be lonely in the city for the summer.

Luke phones Steph but ends up talking to Dr. Squires and they go out to a bar. Another client of Luke's shows up and while getting drunk and high, they get kicked out for underage drinking. Luke and Dr. Squires are walking from the bar and start tagging a wall but are apprehended by the police. Stephanie bails them out of jail and against Dr. Squires wishes takes Luke out for the day. Luke and Steph end up kissing, when Luke gets home he finds he has strong feelings for her.

Luke grabs a letter from his father and reads his family is getting evicted. He advises his father to be a man and take care of it. While dealing, Steph invites him to her house at Fire Islandmarker, Dr. Squires and his wife are going on a second honeymoon. Steph finds out Luke is a virgin and offers to give him lessons. After taking a shower and having sex together, Luke tells Steph that he loves her and the intimacy pushes her away.

Luke asks Dr. Squires for help selling his pot because Luke needs to make enough money for college. Luke introduces Dr. Squires to his client, Eleanor (Jane Adams) and they hit it off. Luke's family gets evicted and is forced to live in a hotel. Luke visits Steph for companionship, but she greets him at the door with another classmate and his heart is broken.

Luke goes to Fire Island to seek counseling with Dr. Squires. Dr. Squires is on a bender because of his divorce and invites Luke to join him. While on numerous drugs, Dr. Squires starts to walk into the ocean to kill himself and Luke goes in after him. They both end up back on the beach, alive.

Luke later talks with Dr. Squires inside the Squires' home. Luke tells him that he will be moving to New Jersey to live with his grandparents. Squires wishes him good luck with school and tells him goodbye. As Luke is leaving, Stephanie follows him to the elevator to talk to him. However, just as she is about to begin, Luke tells her to stop talking and just wait where she is until he leaves. He also tells her that she broke his heart.

Luke goes away to school where he plans to become a psychologist. He says that he will be an expert at it because "everyone around me is so fucking crazy." Eleanor beeps Dr. Squires and asks him if he has any plans for the night.There the movie ends



Filming wrapped up on August 24, 2007. The Wackness was awarded the Audience Award for Dramatic Film at the 2008 Sundance Film Festival.


Jonathan Levine claims the movie is semi-autobiographical. "'I wish I could say that I sold pot and I had a shrink like Ben Kingsley, but no, it wasn't like that,' admits Jonathan Levine . . . 'It's the details and the backdrop, and a lot of the perspective of this kid and the way that he looks at the world,' explains Levine . . . .'The Stephanie character, I guess, is a composite of a few different ladies who broke up with me,' Levine says with a laugh. 'That happened.'"


The Wackness was generally well received by film critics. Roger Ebert gave the movie 3 out of 4 stars and the film also received a positive review from top critic, Peter Travers, collecting 2.5 out of 4 stars. On Metacritic, the movie gathered a general score of 61. The movie rated 68% fresh on RottenTomatoes. It also won the award for Audience Choice at the Sundance Film Festival.


According to a review in the Dallas Morning News:

"Beyond what worked tonewise, a lot of it speaks to what's going on in the movie," Mr. Levine said during a visit to Dallas last month. "There's that 'Heaven & Hell' song by Raekwon when Josh is up on a water tower looking down, and it's asking, 'Is high school heaven or is it hell?' And 'Can I Kick It?' [by A Tribe Called Quest] plays when Kingsley's trying to kick drugs. So a lot of it just kind of worked thematically."

Mr. Levine targeted the most iconic acts of the era, with Notorious B.I.G. on the top of his list. Luke and Stephanie bond in Central Park over beer and the sounds of Total Featuring the Notorious B.I.G.'s classic single "Can't You See". "The What," a song from that album featuring Wu-Tang Clan member Method Man, who also appears in the film as Luke's supplier, leads off the soundtrack . . . . Mr. Levine says he considered expanding the film's sonic landscape to include Weezer and Smashing Pumpkins, two of the year's biggest non-hip-hop acts, and that the original ending featured Nirvana's Lithium."

From Levine: "Ultimately, tough choices refined the film's reach, which isn't such a bad thing. But that doesn't mean it was easy passing that other music up."

The soundtrack from the Sundance submission edit of the movie differs from the final edit with several tracks either being shifted, replaced or cut out in some scenes.


  1. "The What?" -- The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Method Man
  2. "You Used to Love Me" -- Faith Evans
  3. "Flava in Ya Ear" -- Craig Mack feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
  4. "Summertime" -- DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince
  5. "Can't You See" -- Total feat. The Notorious B.I.G.
  6. "I Can't Wake Up" -- KRS-One
  7. "The World Is Yours" -- Nas
  8. "Can I Kick It?" -- A Tribe Called Quest
  9. "Heaven and Hell" -- Raekwon
  10. "Bump N' Grind" -- R. Kelly
  11. "Just a Friend" -- Biz Markie
  12. "Tearz" -- Wu-Tang Clan
  13. "Long Shot Kick De Bucket" -- The Pioneers
  14. "All The Young Dudes" -- Mott the Hoople
  15. "Season of the Witch" -- Donovan

Songs not featured on soundtrack

DVD release

The Wackness was released January 6, 2009 on DVD and Blu-Ray.


Revolver Books published a novelization of the film, written by Dale C. Phillips.


  1. Sundance 2008 Winners Revealed ยป - So much in Love with Movies
  3. Metacritic
  4. Hip-hop music of mid-'90s defines new movie 'The Wackness' | | Arts/Entertainment News and Events | Dallas-Fort Worth | The Dallas Morning News | Music

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