Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Liam James, Anna Sophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney
The Way Way Back is a funny and heartfelt coming-of-age comedy that brings a fresh perspective to the simple story of the awkward and struggling teenager that we’ve all seen before. This movie certainly doesn’t reinvent the wheel, but with an outstanding cast and a hilarious and genuine script, The Way Way Back is a movie that everybody needs to experience.
Plot: The movie focuses around Duncan (James), a sullen 14-year old on his way to spend the summer with his mother (Collette) at her egotistic and arrogant boyfriend’s (Carell) beach house. Feeling out of place and alone, Duncan finds an unlikely friend in Owen (Rockwell), the manager of the nearby water park. Duncan starts spending all of his time at the water park in order to get away from his unfavorable family life and soon discovers a side of himself that he never knew he had.
Despite of all of the clichés that come with any coming-of-age movie, the writing in The Way Way Back is what truly makes a lasting impression. Although Duncan is precisely the sad and angsty teen that we would expect, there is something in him that almost everybody can relate to. That feeling of being alone and frustrated and in desperate need of finding a place or person that allows you to just escape life for a little bit. The humor is fun and the plot is interesting, but the relationships among the characters are what give this story substance. Duncan’s relationship with Owen is probably the most interesting and touching as Duncan looks up to his outgoing-ness and laid back demeanor. Owen is able to show Duncan that life doesn’t have to be so serious all the time, but is also somebody that he can open up to about his troubles at home.
Along with these great characters was some great acting to portray them. The whole cast is superb and each character has their own moments. It was nice to see Steve Carell in more of a douchey character than he usually does and he succeeded in actually making me hate him, so props to him for taking a more serious role than we are used to seeing him in. The standout of the whole movie was probably Rockwell, though, with his scenes truly evoking the most emotion out of them. Liam James as Duncan was good as well and he showed just the right amount of transformation that the character goes through in just the few weeks we see him. I also really enjoyed Allison Janney’s character a lot. She provided a lot of the humor of the movie and was hilarious in every scene she was in whereas Toni Collette and Maya Rudolph provided more of the drama side of the movie.
This is by far one of my favorite movies of the summer and it was a nice change of pace to all of the huge action summer blockbusters that have hit us. In the end, this is going to be the movie that I remember among all of the big budget CGI-injected action fests that have come out because it’s the story and characters and ingenuity that makes The Way Way Back special. Instead of shying away from all of the clichés of the coming-of-age genre, this movie embraces them. It works for the movie and it works for the viewer. In the end, this movie did exactly what it was supposed to do and and didn’t fall short on any aspects.
If you’re a fan of this type of movie, you’ll definitely enjoy it. However, I found that the movie it most reminded me of was Little Miss Sunshine. No surprise there since that movie also features Collette and Carell and comes from the same studio. It has all of the quirkiness and laughter and sad moments just like that movie and I found it to be not just a coming-of-age film, but a movie that examines people in general and the relationships among them.
Conclusion: The Way Way Back works great as both a comedy and a drama. There are plenty of laughs but it’s the realistic feel to the film that makes it so memorable. Atop of the great script, all of the cast were perfect in their roles with Sam Rockwell stealing every scene he was in. It’s the perfect summer movie, with a story full of heart and true emotions. I’m sad that it probably won’t get the attention and praise it deserves this summer, but The Way Way Back is one you shouldn’t miss.