The Way Way Back
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Writers: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney
DVD Release Date: October 22, 2013
Rated: PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material
Synopsis from IMDb:
Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend's daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.
I honestly wasn't quite sure what to expect from The Way Way Back. I knew the studio that released it was the one responsible for the gems Little Miss Sunshine and Juno and that the writer/directors adapted The Descendants, but this movie really didn't get that much buzz. Honestly, I can't even remember a single trailer for this when it came out last summer. Regardless, I absolutely adore almost every single person in this cast and so snagged it from my local library. I'm so glad I did. The Way Way Back is a perfect blend of summer comedy and a poignant coming-of-age story.
The movie follows the story of Duncan, a shy 14 year-old who is extremely unhappy with his summer plans. His mother, Pam (Collette), is dating a man he cannot stand, Trent (Carell), and Duncan is being forced to spend his summer in Trent's summer home along with Trent's pretty teenage daughter--who is also a complete jerk. Duncan ends up befriending man-child, Owen (Sam Rockwell), and spending most of his time at the town's small water park where Owen works and lives. Also employed at the water park are characters played by Maya Rudolph and our writers/directors Rash and Faxon.
There were so many aspects of this movie that I absolutely loved. The first was the location of the film which was an unnamed idyllic east coast beach town. I live in the Northeast--where it is currently snowmageddon--and this film made me seriously yearn for summer. The town is one of those small towns that you know completely clears out in the fall/winter where families go to spend their summers (who gets summers off? I never understood how families were able to do this. Oh right, teachers, I so made the best career decision ever. Now if I could only find a job). The setting immediately gives you that nostalgic summer feeling and I wanted to be there.
Also, the cast is so funny and amazing. Carell, who I'm so used to seeing as the clueless, but affable character in things like The Office and Anchorman, was extremely convincing as a, well, as an asshat. I really disliked his character and hated the way he treats Duncan throughout the film. Toni Collette does a great job as a woman who is trying to make it work with a man she probably sees as her last chance of happiness while still trying to be a good mother to her adolescent son. Allison Janney plays the hilarious drunk neighbor who is there with her teenage daughter, played by AnnaSophia Robb of The Carrie Diaries, and her young son. Duncan starts crushing on AnnaSophia's character even though she is older, and she latches on to him a bit, too, instead of hanging out with Trent's bossy teen daughter who is the queen bee of the summer crew. Liam James, who plays our star, was perfect in the role. He is awkward and bitter and funny. This was the first role I've seen him in, and I will definitely be on the lookout for more from the young actor.
My favorite characters were the employees at the water park. Sam Rockwell's Owen was both hilarious and exasperating. He has a kind of romance going on with Maya Rudolph's character, but you can tell that she is getting feed up with his man-child ways. Jim Rash's character stole the show. He is absolutely hilarious as the man who works in the park's rental shop who keeps telling everyone that he is quitting and moving away. I was surprised at how many times this movie made me laugh out loud.
Overall, I loved this movie. The drama experienced by Duncan due to his home situation is nicely tempered by life at the waterpark. This is one of those perfect coming-of-age stories that make you laugh, gives you the feels, and makes you long for summer. Highly recommend.