The Wackness – Dir. Jonathan Levine (Josh Peck, Sir Ben Kingsley, Method Man, Mary Kate Olsen, Olivia Thirlby, Famke Janssen)

wackness.jpgI vividly remember the Summer of 1994 in NYC because I was there. It was hot, and I was poor, and Kurt Cobain had just died. This is the backdrop for the hugely underrated indie “The Wackness.” The film is mostly a coming of age tale following 18 year-old Luke Shapiro a lonely, weed dealing, recent high school graduate, around for the Summer before he starts college. Shapiro and his parents are on the verge of eviction of their rented Upper East Side apartment while his peers live in penthouses and have largely either left for travels in Europe or a summer house in the Hamptons. But the film doesn’t dwell too much on issues of class but more on a few relationships that don’t really fit any traditional mold.

Enter Ben Kingsley as Luke’s psychiatrist, who trades mostly lame hippie wisdom for bags of grass equivalent in size to the length of the session. As Luke reluctantly confesses the causes of his depression (he wants a girlfriend) he is specifically imagining Kingsley’s beautiful stepdaughter Stephanie. As Stephanie begins to fall a little for the awkward but not totally un-cool Shapiro, the real friendship in the film combatively ignites between Kingsley and Luke. The summer rolls on while Stephanie and Luke spend time together, Kingsley begins to lose his sense of purpose and Luke races to sell enough grass to bail his parents out of debt. This film won’t change anything really, but is a kind of perfect rumination on the nature of love both as a teenager and as an adult. So smoke a joint and enjoy.

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Reprise – Dir. Joachim Trier (Anders Danielsen Lie, Espen Klouman-Høiner, Viktoria Winge)

reprise.jpgGreat films come in all shapes and sizes. Some look great, while others just make you think, and others are mostly about specific extraordinary performances. “Reprise” is that rare breed that manages brilliance on all fronts, but does so without a single recognizable actor, a single special effect or a story that follows an easy narrative thread. Instead it rips pages from everything from “Run Lola Run” to the Dogma films to last year’s “Control,” suspending reality, speculating on the future and meditating on the present. In it two young writers in Oslo each drop their debut novel manuscripts into a mailbox This sets off two parallel voyages that will lead them unknowingly into different arcs of discovery.

Set to the dark mediations of Joy Division, and filled with subtle allusions to everyone from Russ Meyer to the great existentialists, “Reprise”  is a tribute to hipsterism, but it is also fragile and self-conscious. Each character is ultimately forced to deal with each other’s success and failure at a time when both outcomes inform the rest of their lives. All of these events and emotions happen at an incredibly fast pace, both emotionally and cinematically.

But more than anything the film explores the importance of recovery: from a broken heart, from the shock of rejection, or the paralyzing effects associated with success. “Reprise” is without a doubt one of the most creative, inventive films in years. It captures the hope and dreams of youth, tempered with the complexity or becoming an adult. I relate entirely. This film is a minor major masterpiece.

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