Jennie’s Review: The Way, Way Back

Letter Grade:

The Good:

The Screenplay is great
Actors are well cast
Fun and Enjoyable Movie

The Bad:

Honestly, nothing comes to mind
(Other than this film may be hard to find)

Cast & Crew:

Directed and Written by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon
Starring: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb (and other folks...)

Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material

The Way, Way Back opens with our main character Duncan (Liam James) riding in the back (the way, way back) of one of those station wagons with the seat facing the back window. The driver, Duncan’s mom’s (Toni Collette) boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell) is talking to Duncan in an extremely condescending way, telling him he hopes he can become a “better” guy  (read cooler, more popular, more superficial sort of traits) while they are at his summer home for the next few months.  They show up at the house and get settled in for adult spring break (only their kids are there so…awkward).  Duncan finds a bike in the shed and rides off every day to escape.  Duncan is in need of a father figure and is actively resisting the most obvious answer, Trent, who is (to put it politely) a jerk.  Luckily, he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who manages the water park in the area and (at least temporarily) is available to fill the role.  Owen ends up offering Duncan a job at the park and he of course begins to come out of his shell.

First things first, how dangerous and awesome were those seats facing the back?

Ok, now to the movie.

The Way Way Back 3The Way, Way Back is written and directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who also both have minor roles in the film.  That’s right folks, this movie was brought to us by the Oscar winning team of “Dean Pelton” and that guy from a few of those Broken Lizard movies.  If this makes you question the quality of this movie, may I remind you (or inform you) that they (along with Alexander Payne) won their Oscars from writing the screenplay for The Descendants, which was amazing, so give them a chance.  They absolutely earned the Oscar for the Descendants and I hope they are considered for another best screenplay nomination for this movie.

The writing for Allison Janney (as the heavy drinking single mom who resides next door) and Sam Rockwell was great, really, really great. Their lines were clever, funny, fast paced and smart.  Plus, they’re never in a scene together so it THE WAY, WAY BACKreally keeps the film moving along.  Rockwell is such an interesting actor and I very much enjoyed watching him in this role. In general, the whole ensemble is all wonderful and well cast. I’m finding I really like Maya Rudolph.  I don’t fault her for her part in the train wreck that is most of the last 20 years of Saturday Night Live, but because of that I (and many others) wrote her off. If you haven’t seen Away We Go, check it out, it may open you up to rethinking your opinion of her. She didn’t have a major role in the film, but when she was in it, she was great. Steve Carrell also does a great job with his role, but man you want to slap him (several times).

The kid (James) is awkward a lot of the movie.  He’s supposed to be, he’s 14 (the character anyhow) and that’s probably what makes you like him so much.  There is a reason that coming of age movies work for all ages, it’s because we’ve all been there.  Not the exact circumstances of course, but the general themes.  We’ve all been an awkward teenager, we’ve all been mad at a parental figure, we’ve all had that first real crush, we’ve all been confused about where we are headed in life, and we’ve all been able to surprise even ourselves.The Way Way Back 2

I really loved this movie and am so glad to have seen it at the theater.  It is not a big flashy blockbuster so people may miss it and theaters may not run it for long (if they run it at all).  I recommend seeking it out.  If it’s not showing anywhere in your area, be sure to watch for it when it makes it to DVD and streaming.  The movie is a little less than 2 hours, which seems like the perfect length.  At no point did I feel like it was dragging, nor did I feel as though it was rushed.  The movie was a crowd pleaser at the showing I was at, and appeals to a wide audience.  It is appropriately rated PG-13, so parents may want to investigate before younger kids see it.

*Photos courtesy of Fox Searchlight


Jennie Stoddart (24 Posts)

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