Jan 17, 2015

Review: The Way Way Back (2013)

Summer is probably my favourite season for coming-of-age films to be set in. I guess there's just something special about being a kid left to one's own devices without having to go to school. All that free time is an easy way to work some self-discovery and growth in which are of course the main ingredients of any coming-of-age movie.

The Way Way Back joins the many films in that category like its 2013 stablemate The Kings of Summer as well as Stand By Me and Adventureland among others. It actually resembles Adventureland quite a bit in the sense that it takes place in a type of amusement park and it's set in the 80's. TWWB doesn't actually take place in the 80's, but it was supposed to. However it became too expensive to pull off which is why there are elements of the 80's sprinkled here and there still.


Genre: comedy, drama
Directed by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Produced by: Tom Rice , Kevin J. Walsh, Nat Faxon, etc.
Written by: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Music by: Rob Simonsen
Running time: 103 minutes
Production company: Sycamore Pictures, The Walsh Company, OddLot Entertainment, etc.
Distributed by: Fox Searchlight Pictures, 20th Century Fox, Diamond Films, etc.
Country: United States
Language: English
Budget: $5,000,000
Box office: $23,198,652 (Worldwide)

IMDb entry
Rotten Tomatoes entry

Starring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon, Robert Capron, River Alexander, Ava Deluca-Verley, Zoe Levin, Devon Werden, Jeff Ryan, Kira Mohr, Cjaiilon Andrade



Socially awkward Duncan (Liam James) is dragged to to his mother's (Toni Collette) boyfriend Trent's (Steve Carell) summer house in Cape Cod. Fed up of dealing with Trent's comments, his over-bearing nature and the lack of support from his mother, Duncan sets out on a bicycle on his own to explore the town. He comes across the Water Wizz water park which suddenly becomes something like a real home for Duncan.


Easily one of the best things about The Way Way Back are the performances. Who first really shines is Steve Carell as the mean new boyfriend. It's quite shocking to see him be so disgustingly passive-aggressive and quite hurtful towards Duncan. Even more shocking is just how well he pulls it off despite mostly be known for his comedy. He doesn't have a huge role though and was only on set for a total of ten days. His presence really has an impact all the same.

Allison Janney is the other performance I was just really taken aback by. She chews through scenes effortlessly as the nosy, noisy, probably alcoholic neighbour and she's just so much fun to watch. Like Steve Carell, she doesn't have that big a part, but she's quite memorable. I was also taken aback by how many notable actors there are in TWWB. Thankfully though, they're all very well integrated and aren't just there for their star appeal.

Liam James as the shy main character Duncan is also quite pleasant to watch. He gets the job done when it comes to being that social outcast kind of character. It's not a revolutionary performance or anything, but it's one that's easy to sympathize for and appreciate. He's also extremely well supported by Sam Rockwell's character Owen in a pretty nice way. Owen is like that cool older brother Duncan never had and is a big reason for his coming out party as a person.

Besides the acting performances, the other star is Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's script. Again, it isn't revolutionary material by any means, but it just works so well. The relationships are believable, the comedy works and it has genuine heart which is proven several times over. The only scene I'd really outline as being ineffective is where after becoming a full time employee of Water Wizz, Duncan is asked to put the brakes on a very large breakdance gathering in the park. (Spoilers) Intimidated to disappoint so many people and kind of afraid for his well-being, he instead gets invited to show the crowd his moves which ends with a bunch of applause. It's a nice moment I guess, but it's a bit heavy on the silliness and unbelievability. (End Spoilers)

The Way Way Back isn't the greatest coming-of-age movie I've ever seen, but I couldn't help enjoying the story and all of its characters. There's a lot of fun to be had watching the directorial debut of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash and I really enjoyed watching the character they created in Duncan grow as a person. You honestly have to be really trying to not have a good time watching The Way Way Back

It's pretty clear that everyone on screen was having a good time being a part of this production. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash themselves have secondary roles in the film and it's easy to think that this is just one big group of friends getting together to shoot a movie over their summer vacations. This is probably what gives TWWB such a perfect feel. It makes itself really hard to dislike because of its great characters, great performances and its balanced mix of comedy and drama. 



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