“The Way Way Back” is a film that will melt your heart and break it a little bit at the same time.
I most certainly would have been a crying mess, especially during the final act, had I watched the film alone in my living room. But I saw it in the theater and kept my emotions in check in order to maintain whatever street cred I have left in the world of Landmark Theatres. (I do work there, after all)
I will definitely buy this movie and just let it all out during my second, third and fourth viewings at home. But for now let me just go ahead and tell you why you need to see this film before it leaves the big screen.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (also writers of “The Descendants” with Alexander Payne) are the writers and directors of the film, which took at least eight years to complete. “The Way Way Back” is their directorial debut.
The time it took to make this film is a representation of the heart it has and why it deserves to be seen.
The world of escaping from reality by watching movies is just a little bit of a better place because of this one.
The story focuses on Duncan (Liam James) who at age 14 doesn’t feel he fits in in the world and is suffering from the aftermath of his parents’ divorce.
To add to Duncan’s troubles, his mom’s new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell) makes him feel less than while mostly pretending to care about having a relationship with the whole family.
James and Carrell are joined in the cast by Toni Collette (Duncan’s mom, Pam), Allison Janney as Betty, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet and Rob Coddry.
Sam Rockwell plays Owen, the manager of the Water Wizz park who befriends Duncan during the family’s summer trip to Trent’s beach house.
Duncan spends as much time away from the house and his family as possible, which is how he discovers the water park during a venture into town one day.
After some time it’s clear that’s the place he fits in best and meeting Owen is just the thing Duncan needed.
Owen is young at heart and doesn’t take life too seriously but he connects with Duncan through having similar experiences in his childhood.
Eight, or more, years ago I am glad those who needed to saw the potential in the story of “The Way Way Back.”
Even beyond the age of 14 we all have experiences of not fitting in and not having any idea what we’re going to do.
It’s life and, as Owen tells Duncan, you just have to find your own way.
As I said there are scenes in the film that will pull at your heart strings but those come with an equal amount that are funny and witty.
Rockwell very much plays a character who is a mix of comic relief and being serious enough to teach everyone a lesson and help Duncan come into his own.
Faxon and Rash have roles as Water Wizz employees Roddy and Lewis and Rudolph plays a manager at the park alongside Rockwell.
I think Collette was a fine choice to play Pam, but her performance didn’t really stand out. Allison Janney, as the drunk, fun-loving neighbor Betty, provides comic relief as well. She has a stronger supporting role than Carrell and, while I’m a fan, I wasn’t really impressed with his performance.
Maybe it’s because Trent is developed as a character you do not like or relate to, but I still would have liked to see more of an impact from Carrell.
Overall, “The Way Way Back” is an effective mix of a modern-day family story with nostalgia represented by a beach town that comes alive in the summer and a vintage station wagon.
If for nothing else, see this this film so it won’t be a decade before Faxon and Rash make another one.