|July 5, 2013|
|Fox Searchlight Pictures|
Rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material
|The Way Way Back
If there’s one thing we’ve learned from both “The Descendants” and now “The Way Way Back”, it’s that Nat Faxon and Jim Rash know their shit. This time writing, directing, and acting, both Nat and Jim are already at the top of their game and we’re only on film number two. Diving into the world of an awkward teen this time around, “The Way Way Back” follows 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) as he follows his mother to her new boyfriend’s beach house for the summer. Surrounded by eccentric neighbors and vapid teen females, it’s not until Duncan stumbles around Water Whiz water park and meets the overly sociable Owen (Sam Rockwell), owner of the water park, that he finally begins coming out of his shell.
The performances in this film are key to making it the sleeper hit of the summer. Sam Rockwell produces one of the most entertaining and thoughtful performance not just of the year, but of his career, making this role his own and dominating the screen with every turn of phrase. You anticipate his scenes and fall in love with his character’s admirable demeanor towards everyone around him. Sure, there are lessons even for him to learn, but regardless, Owen is a fully formed character that you cannot help but cheer for. The other shining star in this film is Annasophia Robb as Susanna, who is never really allowed to shine in all her glory, but from the glimpses of her performance and the eventual culmination of her story arc, she is another character you fall in love with. Even Steve Carell transforms himself into the arrogant, immature asshole Trent, the boyfriend of Duncan’s mother. His role as the subtle villain is key to the peaks of Liam James’ performance (“who says that to somebody?”).
What hinders “The Way Way Back” from being the best film of the year is that Liam James never really hits his mark, floundering in the middle ground of not really acting and trying too hard. Although his awkwardness in front of the camera is often a crutch in conveying how introverted his character is, this role could have simply been cast better. Aside from this discrepancy, do not be surprised to see Faxon and Rash’s names in the Best Original Screenplay category at the Academy Awards, with some of the best dramatic dialogue to come out of this season. Also, this coming of age depiction is so relatable that anyone who’s ever been on vacation with their parents will get a twinge of deja vu, especially an formerly awkward kid like myself. “The Way Way Back” is an example of a film you wish would just go on forever, but since it can’t, you’re forced to reminisce about these characters that you fell in love with and what could have been, the signature of a beautiful crafted dramatic film.