“Music inspires you to keep making images,” director Jonathan Levine says. The director of The Wackness, 50/50, and the new Seth Rogen–Charlize Theron rom-com, Long Shot, constantly finds himself inspired by music. Whether he’s writing or thinking of the mood for a movie, music is on his mind. His love for music was evident from the start of his career with The Wackness, but his movies that followed have been packed with songs that fit just right.
With Long Shot, he was mostly inspired by music with a “nostalgic bittersweet” feeling. Even if some of those bands and artists that influenced him didn’t land a spot on the soundtrack, like Bon Iver or David Gray, they were instrumental in Levine thinking of the bigger picture. In the case of the Long Shot, he wanted to create feelings of nostalgia, so the soundtrack has the likes of The Cure, Boyz II Men, Bruce Springsteen, so basically artists Fred Flarsky (Seth Rogen) and Charlotte Field (Charlize Theron) grew up listening to. Even those big names, though, don’t even begin to cover all the heavy hitters in the movie’s soundtrack, which also features Frank Ocean’s “Moon River” and Aretha Franklin’s cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water.”
Recently, Levine talked to us all about music in his latest film, as well as the music that shaped his taste, songs he’s used and wants to use in movies, his obsession with Springsteen, and more about the music a part of both his career and life.
If somebody reading this has a few extra million bucks to spare, they should consider giving Jonathan Levine a call. The director behind 50/50, The Night Before, and Snatched wants to revisit the struggling characters from his excellent coming-of-age film, The Wackness. Almost a decade after the movie went overlooked in theaters, Levine wants to explore New York City again with Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) and Dr. Squires (Ben Kingsley).
Below, Levin discusses The Wackness sequel he wants to make.
The Wackness wasn’t Jonathan Levine‘s directorial debut, but it was the first film we saw from him. Following the long-delayed All the Boys Love Mandy Lane, Levine wrote and directed the coming-of-age film set in the early ’90s. The Wackness was packed with music of its time, with no shortage of Biggie songs, and lots of old classics, such as Donovan’s “Season of the Witch.” Levine’s love for music, and his knack for using music to tell a story, rang loud and clear in The Wackness.
Over the years he’s continued to use music rather effectively. As famous as some of the songs are in his films, they never distract from the emotional or comedic beats they’re serving. TheWackness, 50/50, Warm Bodies, and the director’s newest film, The Night Before, are packed with great tunes. Levine’s Christmas comedy features plenty of cheerful holiday music, but there are also some modern hits that play a major part in the story. There’s a Miley Cyrus performance, for example, that is more than a cameo.
At the junket for The Night Before — which stars Seth Rogen (Steve Jobs), Joseph Gordon-Levitt (50/50), and Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker) — we decided to discuss with Levine his love for music and why he chose certain songs over the course of his career. Read our Jonathan Levine interview after the jump. Read More »
Back in May, I had the opportunity to sit down with director Jonathan Levine and star Josh Peck to talk about their new film The Wackness. I fell in love with this indie coming-of-age drama at Sundance. I have since seen the film three more times. You’ve probably read my gushing posts. It seems like if you talk enough about one thing, even the filmmakers know you by name. When I walked into the room at the Clift Hotel in San Francisco, Levine came over and thanked me for all the coverage I have given his film. I thanked him for making a great film. Peck even confessed that he’s a regular /Film reader. How cool is that?
Peter Sciretta: Everybody in the film has a cigarette of drug addiction.
Jonathan Levine: Yeah. Well, I think that, OK, so, yes, everyone smokes, sometimes a lot of the time they’re supposed to be smoking a joint, but people think it’s a cigarette, but Olivia smokes, Famke smokes, there was a scene in the shot where Josh’s character actually quit smoking at the very beginning of the movie and then actually has a cigarette at the end of the movie but that ended up on the cutting room floor. For me I think it’s – I recognize it’s probably pretty provocative and probably pisses people off, but a lot of the world I grew up in in New York or even, I just think teenagers do things that are bad for them. I think the point of the movie is that everyone regardless of where they are in life or what their perspective is, they have their own drug, whether it’s sex, money, music, weed, prescription medication, like everyone has their own drug. I think that kind of underscores that point, but there’s like all this, I think now if you have a cigarette in a movie it’s Rated R right, or is it PG-13?
Peter Sciretta: It’s one of the two, I know you can’t even show smoking in like greenband trailers which must make it hard for you guys to…
The headline might be just a little deceiving… Okay, a lot. Jonathan Levine’s The Wackness was released on just six screens in New York and Los Angeles this past weekend. And while the film’s $145,000 gross might not seem like much, this little indie gem was able to make $24,166 per screen, which is about $8,000 more per screen than the Will Smith superhero film Hancock. Yes, I realize that Hancock was on 3,959 more screens than The Wackness, but that’s also my point.
The Wackness is one of those wonderful little indies that you have to seek out. Sony will be expanding the film’s release though-out the month, and chances are you’ll be able to see it at a theater near you (that is if you live near the top 50 markets). Thanks to FirstShowing, we have Sony Picture Classics’ tentative release schedule:
Raleigh / Durham / Chapel Hill
Miami / Ft. Lauderdale / West Palm
Salt Lake City
The Wackness is one of those movies which is almost impossible to market in a PG world. It’s about a teenager drug dealer’s last summer before he heads off to college. And while that’s the one sentence breakdown, I’m sure you can already tell, it’s much more than that. I’ve given this movie rave after rave, and have seen it four times on the festival circuit. So there is no point in telling you it’s one of my favorite films of the year.
Until today, the teaser trailers have been rather weak. Every time something new has been released, I’ve found myself defending the movie that can’t be represented in a green band movie trailer. Sony Pictures Classics have finally released a red band trailer on IGN, and you’ll immediately see the difference. No, it’s not filled with swears or nudity. It does what the best red band movie trailers do best, and sells the movie accurately. If you watch this trailer and tell me you’re still not interested then maybe The Wackness isn’t for you. But I assure you, if you grew up in the 90’s, then you’ll probably digg this film.
It’s the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip hop and wafting with the sweet aroma of marijuana. The newly-inaugurated mayor, Rudolph Giuliani, is only beginning to implement his anti-fun initiatives against “crimes” like noisy portable radio, graffiti and public drunkenness.
Two people, however, are missing out on the excitement. Luke (Josh Peck) is a socially uncomfortable teenage pot dealer with no friends, issues with his parents, and a whopping lack of confidence with girls. He trades weed for sessions with his therapist, Dr. Squires (Sir Ben Kingsley), whose much-younger wife (Famke Janssen) is slipping away from him. Squires, a drug-addled shrink with a hairline retreating to the back of his neck and a state of mind slouching back to adolescence, is an unlikely role model—but the two of them forge a friendship based on a mutual need: neither one is getting laid.
Propelled by an exuberant hip hop score, “The Wackness” captures the spell of 1994–a time of pagers, not cell phones; a time when Tupac and Biggie were alive but Kurt Cobain had just died. Funny and moving, “The Wackness” is an offbeat tale of two lost souls stumbling towards maturity.
Sony Pictures Classics has released a new trailer for one of my favorite films of the year – The Wackness. They’re calling it the “official trailer”, and I actually like it much more than the the previously released teasers. It plays equal attention the relationships between Peck, Thirlby, and Kingsley, the 1990’s nostalgia, and the incredible soundtrack. I could have done without the Mary-Kate Olsen button at the end, but I understand she might be a selling point.
Hunter points out that they probably should have played up some of the great critical reaction the film has gotten on the festival circuit. But at the same time I can understand that the target audience might not care about quotes from movie critics. I’m still waiting for the inevitable red band trailer. As I’ve said before, this film is a tough film to sell. Director Jonathan Levine told me that SPC was planning on doing a lot of word of mouth screenings to raise awareness. I think the best thing they could do is pack a theater with people and show them the film, as they will surely recommend it to ten of their friends.
I just got an e-mail from Luke Shapiro. I only mention this because Luke Shapiro is a fictional character in a movie (one of my favorite movies of the year – The Wackness). And by that, I don’t mean that someone who liked the movie adopted the name of their favorite character for their online nickname (like OptimusPrime2007). The character from the movie actually e-mailed me.
From: Luke Shapiro
Date: Wed, May 28, 2008 at 4:37 PM
Yo, yo, yo, check out this video. I found it in the archives. My doorman and super are crazy dope. Stay tuned for more episodes of my flyness.
The YouTube link above leads to footage from a public access show created by Luke Shapiro in 1994. The footage was apparently recently discovered in the archives of a Manhattan Cable television station. And while I love the idea of marketing The Wackness using viral videos like this with the character of Luke Shapiro (played by Josh Peck), but aside from the opening, this video comes off like a bad Mad TV sketch (and is nothing like the tone of the film). But I like the idea, and I love the film, so I’m posting it.
When I first saw The Wackness in January at Sundance, I proclaimed that it was one of my favorite films of the year so far. It’s very easy to make such claims in the first couple weeks of a new year, especially when you’re in Park City. I’ve seen the film now four times, in three different states. We’re now almost half way through 2008, and I can tell you without a doubt, the film stands up.
The Wackness will find an audience, because frankly, it’s a good movie. Problem is, the film is hard to market. Almost every character in the film smokes, the lead character sells drugs, none of which can be shown in a green band movie trailer. To top it off, the film is a period film, set in the mid-90’s, enough to tempt any marketing department to use crazy 90’s colors and graphics, none of which is appealing to people today because, well, “it’s so 90’s.” But I think this new teaser trailer does a better job of explaining things. It’s really hard to take a step back. Having seen the films so many times now, it’s almost like your brain fills in the blanks.
The new teaser focuses on the relationship between Josh Peck and Olivia Thirlby’s characters. I’m still waiting for a two and a half minute theatrical trailer. When I interviewed director Jonathan Levine a couple weeks back, he told me they’re working on a kick ass red band trailer which should help sell the movie more for what it is, and not only the g-rated elements they’re allowed to show you. I hear Sony Pictures Classics is going to run a lot of advanced screenings, because word of mouth is really the only way to get the word out about this film. Anyway, watch the new teaser trailer below and tell me what you think in the comments.
Watch the trailer in High Definition on Apple.com. The Wackness hits theaters in New York and Los Angeles on July 3rd 2008.
Official Plot Synopsis: It’s the summer of 1994, and the streets of New York are pulsing with hip-hop and wafting with the sweet aroma of marijuana-but change is in the air. The newly-inaugurated mayor, Rudy Giuliani, is beginning to implement his anti-fun initiatives against “crimes” like noisy portable radios, graffiti and public drunkenness. Set against this backdrop, Luke Shapiro (Josh Peck) spends his last summer before college selling dope throughout New York City, trading it with his shrink (Ben Kingsley) for therapy, while crushing on his step daughter (Olivia Thirlby). Famke Janssen, Mary Kate Olsen,and Method Man round out the cast in this edgy, bittersweet, and funny coming of age story.
Discuss: What do you think of the new trailer for The Wackness.