by Lauren Bans
dir. Jonathan Levine
Jonathan Levine’s The Wackness is basically the Jewish version of Good Will Hunting. Luke Shapiro, a drug dealing, mildly unpopular Jewish kid pretending to be black befriends (and sells pot to) Dr. Squires, a crazy Jewish psychiatrist. A beautiful, life-altering homosocial friendship ensues. Did I say it was the Jewish Good Will Hunting? What I meant was it was the Man-Boy love version of Superbad.
Really, if you were an agent pitching it to a studio you could go with either: A.) This is Good Will Hunting, only Jewish or B.) This is Superbad, only with a NAMBLA spin.
Which is not to say that the movie was bad. It was great. I mean, Good Will Hunting should have been more Jewish in the first place. Psychiatrists that straddle the line between crazy and wise and pill-popping are hard to find (believe me, I’ve tried), but I can guarantee when you do find such a rare gem of bubbling existential neurosis in a doctor they sure as hell ain’t Irish Catholic.
NOT A JEW Psychiatrist:
Josh Peck‘s dopey pseudo-gangsta, but nerdishly sweet smile managed to convey both the character’s pretense and genuine good nature. Ben Kingsley, however, spoke with an affected “New York” accent that encompassed more dialects than the U.N. has country members. This made him seem even crazier. I couldn’t tell if it was deliberate. Since it’s Ben Kingsley I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt and say yes.
I was predisposed to like the film’s writer/director Jonathan Levine because he went to my alma mater, and he makes fun of it in a recent NYT’s article:
At Brown, where Mr. Levine majored in English and art semiotics (“That’s sort of half reading Foucault and Baudrillard and half making stuff,” he explained), he was also a bit of an anomaly, at least among the college’s would-be filmmakers, many of whom were making tone poems.
Luke Shapiro’s main problem of course is not getting laid. In high school, that means everything. Actually now in my twentysomethings, it still means everything. He develops a huge crush on Dr. Squire’s stepdaughter, Stephanie (Olivia Thirby).
“Yo, um, it would be mad fly, if you could, like, touch my dick.”
Contrary to the Katherine Heigl-type neurotic, beautiful, and responsible female lead, Thirby plays the indie-standard ideal female, what I like to call the “Quirky Aggressive”. She’s pretty without makeup, wears Converse, and says quirky and aggressive things.
SIGNS YOU ARE A QUIRKY AGGRESSIVE FEMALE:
#1.) You do drugs or you like talking about how you do drugs.
#2.) You use unique, half-witty, half-annoying sayings like “Dudesies!”, “For YAYs” and make jokes about “Rim Jobs” because you are so cool with your sexuality.
#3.) On dates, rather than awkwardness, you manifest your wants/needs/insecurities through aggressive lines like “So when are you going to kiss/fuck/lick my C???”
(Advice: Quirky Aggressives are only beloved in indie films. Please do not try to be one in real life. Do not make rim job and poop jokes on dates. For the first few months your dude will be all like, “OMG, you’re so cool and funny! You’re not like other girls!” because you said something about giving “Nietzche a BlowJ” or some Quirky Aggressive-esque bullshit, but then after about six months the charm wears off and you find yourself being hushed in public places or cringed at just for telling your old, beloved rim job joke! You are being silenced, Quirky Aggressive. But Quirky Aggressives won’t be silenced so they keep going, because, like, they’re quirky and aggressive, and shutting up for a dude is so antithetical to their personality. Which brings us to…..)
Eleanor, played by Jane Adams, is the finest character in this film. She was only in it for ten minutes. Eleanor is a single, thirtysomething ex-band member/stoner who buys pot regularly from Luke, and tells him all her problems when she’s high. She delivers the best line of the movie: “Why are men so intimidated by me? Is it because I play an instrument?”
Movies in which Jane Adams has also played a lonely-heart:
Wonder Boys (okay not so much. FCed:MC)
The Anniversary Party
I hope you realize I’m kidding about this Q-A stuff. Everything will be fine, Q-As. Especially if you’re a lesbian. I, however, am a heterosexual feminist.
The one thing I didn’t like about The Wackness was its constant self-conscious references to New York in the 1990s. We get it. This is New York. It is the 1990s. There were so many Giuliani references I could basically make a case that Giuliani is the cause of Luke’s limp dick in the scene where he loses his virginity. Basically it does to Giuliani what Definitely Maybe did to the Clintons. Perhaps Levine wrote the movie when Rudy was still a viable presidential candidate.
Even more than it was a movie about male friendship and the hardships of love and relationships, it was a movie about music. The Power of Tunes. How Music Can Change Your Life. Music As The One Constant. How Music Identifies Who You Are.
Other Movies About Boys Loving Music:
Mr. Holland’s Opus
And those are only the titles I can think of off the top of my head. Hollywood is built on male love for music.
Movies About Girls Loving Music:
Lauren Bans is a contributor to This Recording. She is a writer living in Brooklyn. You can read her blog here. This is her first appearance in these pages.
MUSIC THAT EVERYONE CAN ENJOY
“We Looked Like Giants” – Death Cab for Cutie (mp3)
“Missed the Boat ” – Modest Mouse (mp3)
“Right Moves” – Josh Ritter (mp3)
“Confession Rains” – Katkhuda (mp3)
PREVIOUSLY ON THIS RECORDING
I was an architect.
Sometimes I Find Myself In The Ninth Circle of Hell
Q-A from this oh so hot tumblr