“The Way Way Back” was released on Jul. 5 but has slowly spread across the country and will continue spreading on Jul. 26. This film is the next movie by the guys that earned Oscars for Alexander Payne’s adaptation of “The Descendants,” so expectations are high for Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. They co-directed, co-wrote, and co-starred in “The Way Way Back,” and one can feel the love and fun they devoted to it.
On summer vacation, fourteen-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is staying at a beach house with his mother (Toni Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Duncan is mostly encouraged to hang out with Steph or neighbor kids Peter (River Alexander) and Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) while Trent and his mother hang out with drunken neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) and friends Kip (Rob Corddry) and Joan (Amanda Peet). Awkward, alone, and plagued by Trent’s negative attitude towards him, Duncan wanders around town on a borrowed bike and eventually hangs out at the local water park Water Wizz and gets a job. Park employees Roddy (Nat Faxon), Lewis (Jim Rash), Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), and especially Owen (Sam Rockwell) make him feel most at home and belonging at Water Wizz.
The story might be an average coming-of-age teen story, with awkward moments of attraction and lack of understanding from parents, but “The Way Way Back” has more heart than other similar stories in the form of Sam Rockwell as Owen. His performance is one of the best supporting roles so far this year. We don’t get a role model saying “learn from my mistakes.” We don’t even get much of an honest history from him. But we do get a sense of a genuinely caring and concerned adult. And many, many laughs.
Smartly, Faxon and Rash decided not to wrap up the film with a moral or clear conclusion. “The Way Way Back” doesn’t exactly have a happy ending; Duncan’s story will keep going. Maybe it gets better, maybe not. But the storytelling had just the right amount of intensity to feel real. Some of the actors even go a little too far to be dislikeable, such as Janney, Carell, and Levin, but they never quite become caricatures; they are still genuine. Like last year’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” “The Way Way Back” succeeds as a realistic film for families with young adults. It makes you pause and appreciate the supportive people around you.
Rating for “The Way Way Back:” A-
For more information on this film or to view its trailer, click here.
“The Way Way Back” is currently playing at two theaters in Columbus, Rave Polaris and AMC Lennox, and expands to Gateway, Drexel, AMC Easton, and Marcus Crosswoods on Jul. 26. For showtimes, click here.