TROUBLE CITY

Review: The Wackness, plus a taboo

BlogsJamie GaarComment

I tend to not pay attention to Sundance as it happens. It hurts too much, knowing I can’t be there. I’ve never been, but I would love to.

So, the only film I’d really heard about coming out of Park City was The Wackness and some movie about a Cuban playing baseball, or something like that. Good reviews and buzz and a blurb on an NPR podcast etched the film in the back of my mind. So, one lazy Saturday morning, I ventured off to the nearest matinee showing.

Eh, it’s…it’s alright.

I feel like the one word to describe the film is uneven. But the film’s so well written at times, and nothing feels forced. It’s a shame it gets so much right, except the film couldn’t handle its own whimsy.

There are few moments of real whim that call attention to themselves, but when they arrive, they’re great. Josh Peck is absolutely awesome in the role, as he holds back too much at times and expresses too much at others. He’s incredibly convincing, and reminded so much of someone I’d met once before that it felt that much more grounded. And the moments when his character, Luke Shapiro, dictates to dance on the pavement like Michael Jackon’s “Billie Jean” video, you buy it and love it as it happens.

But the film never really finds that balance with the rest of itself. Dialogue steeped in the mundane, the poetics of teenage angst (although it calls itself on it; “That was real cheesy, what you said back there,” Ben Kingsley admits), musings on the era. That’s my other chief complaint: the film is set in 1994, and boy does it never cease to remind us.  A Forrest Gump ad on a bus was all I needed, and the Cobain references and Notorious B.I.G. soundtrack works, but it crosses the line, I think, when Kingsley, having been spotted by the cops smoking a joint, pumps the pumps on his Reeboks.

But the film is raw in its truths and efforts, and I feel like it worked rather well most of the time. It’s funny and touching and knows its subject matter.

Now, I’m off to see The Dark Knight again, though I suppose I will have to atone for this later.