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The Way, Way Back is Way, Way Good! July 17, 2013

Posted by Alichat in Humor, Movies.
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I was excited to get last minute passes to see The Way, Way Back.  The reviews are overwhelmingly positive, plus any film description containing the words ‘indie’ and ‘Steve Carell’ is a 99% guarantee that the film will be fantastic.  Carell as Trent, however, is not the quirky, quiet, shy, downtrodden, or lovable guy you usually see in these films.  This go around, he’s pretty much a douche.

The Way Way Back bannerThe Way, Way Back focuses mostly on actor Liam James (The Killing,) who portrays 14 year old Duncan, son to Toni Collette’s Pam.  The movie opens on him sitting in the back seat of an old school, wood-paneled Buick station wagon.  Yep…the ones with the bench seat that faces the back of the car.  Duncan, Pam, Trent, and Trent’s daughter Steph are on their way to Trent’s beach house for the summer.  It’s an attempt to merge families and build bonds.  Duncan is not happy. He would rather be with his father.  Actually, he would rather be anywhere else than in that car with Trent.  As the only two awake, Trent strikes up a conversation with Duncan.  The word ‘buddy’ gets tossed around a lot.  Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10.  He chooses 6.  Trent, however, believes Duncan is a 3, and goes into detail why he chose such a low rating.  Thus, we are introduced to the relationship, or lack there of, between Duncan and Trent.  The movie follows Duncan as he finds his way to happiness and fun in the crappy situation forced on him.  Quiet, insecure, and shy, Duncan is unable to express his dissatisfaction with his mother whom he knows is choosing to see Trent the Bully through rosy-colored glasses than be alone.  Duncan begins working at a water park nearby, and as his confidence builds, he begins to speak out more, voicing his disdain for Trent, some of Trent’s friends, and his mother’s choices.

Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants), who also  co-star in the film, this story hit a little close to home for me. (The car scene described above was taken from Rash’s own childhood.)  Although, I imagine everyone has someone in their family like Pam, one who settles for a dysfunctional relationship and looses part of herself out of the fear of being alone, it still wasn’t the easiest thing to see.  If not for the jolt of humor from the supporting cast, the film would be quite dreary.  Allison Janney, as the booze swilling, party-loving neighbor gives added levity to tense scenes, especially with River Alexander who portrays her son Peter.  There’s also Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and AnnaSophia Robb.  But the best piece of casting outside of James was Sam Rockwell.  As the laid back, wise cracking manager of the water park, he takes Duncan under his wing, making it his mission to teach him to relax and enjoy life. The character is a somewhat typical Sam Rockwell character (think Hitchhiker’s Guide, Iron Man 2, Galaxy Quest,) but he brings an emotional depth to Owen and the bond created between Owen and Duncan really resonates truth.  Although the story is somewhat predictable and made me a little uncomfortable, the casting is superb, and it’s charm outweighs these points.  It is definitely worth viewing.

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