Jonathan Levine Exclusive Video Interview – THE WACKNESS

     February 26, 2008

Here’s the problem with posting my Sundance video interviews with the cast and creator of “The Wackness”…. all it’s going to do is make you angry that you can’t see the film anytime soon. Yes, the film was bought by Sony Pictures Classics, and yes, the film will be out later this year. But the more you hear about the movie, and the more you hear the enthusiasm in my voice as I talk to the people who made it, I’m just nervous that you’ll be mad that it isn’t out anytime soon.

I actually debated not posting these interviews. I thought, perhaps I should save them for when the movie gets released. But the interviews were so good; I figured I could always link back to them later.

Anyway, a little about “The Wackness.”

As I’ve said a few times, it was my favorite film from this years Sundance and it was written and directed by Jonathan Levine. You could say the film is a coming of age story set in New York City during the summer of 1994, but it’s so much more than that. While I could spend the next hour crafting a great synopsis, we ran a review by Kenny Fischer during Sundance and I’m including part of it before the interview. His thoughts on the film are perfect.

The Wackness is a comedy about the unusual friendship between a pot dealer (Josh Peck) and his unorthodox shrink (Ben Kingsley). Luke Shapiro, the pot dealer, has just graduated from high school. He’s not popular but he’s not a loser, either. He’s something in between. He has next to no sexual experience, next to no friends, and next to no life. The only outlet he has are his sessions with Dr. Squires, his psychiatrist. And he pays him with weed.

The film is a funny look at two significant crossroads in your life. It’s the only film I can think of that’s both a quarter-life crisis (The Graduate and Garden State) and a mid-life crisis movie (American Beauty). While Luke has some issues, most of them stem from a lack of experience in all aspects of life. He’s basically a good kid. Dr. Squires, on the other hand, is a total fuck up. He’s deeply flawed and a hypocrite, but somehow he’s lovable.

His friendship with Luke gives him a sliver of hope and offers him an opportunity to hit the reset button on his life. The relationship is mutually beneficial, as Dr. Squires has already made all the mistakes that lay ahead of Luke. He gives him some very simple and strong advice: get out there, fuck several girls, and get your heart broken. Luke takes this to heart, and pursues a girl he’s had a crush on for awhile…

…Dr. Squires’ stepdaughter.

Needless to say, this is where things become complicated and hilarious. The movie is hysterically funny, insightful, fresh, and moving. It’s also a period film. By setting the film in 1994, the film gains a sense of time and place that adds extra layers to the characters and narrative. On one hand, the film is timeless; it deals with issues that everyone will face at some time in their life. But by placing it in an era we didn’t realize had become retro, the humor and conflict gains a specificity it wouldn’t have had otherwise. There are some amazing touches. Blowing in NES cartridges. A soundtrack featuring De La Soul and Notorious B.I.G. Newly ironic jokes about Giuliani. Etc. Etc. Etc.

As I said, great review.

So about this interview. The one you’re about to watch is with writer/director Jonathan Levine. We talked about everything -from casting Ben Kingsley to the soundtrack. It’s a great interview with someone who’s absolutely making more movies. Look for the others later tonight.

Jonathan Levine

  • What is the status of the film sale
  • How did the film come together and writing the movie
  • Casting process. How did he get Sir Ben
  • How did he sell the movie to Ben? Especially playing a pot head
  • The music from the 90’s. Does he have the rights to all the music
  • I ask if there is anything about the movie that he wants people to know about
  • Coming of age story talk

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