THE WAY WAY BACK
FILM REVIEW: THE WAY WAY BACK
Running Length: 103 min
Release Date: 7th June 2013 (Ireland)
Directed by: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Cast:Steve Carrell, Toni Colette, Allison Janney, AnnaSofia Robb, Sam Rockwell
Written by: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Cinematography: John Bailey
The Way Way Back is a movie aimed squarely at the surly teenager
Can you remember that last horrible holiday that you were forced to go on with your parents? You were probably a year too old for it, but the possibility of having the family abode razed to the ground in some Project X-style shenanigans meant that you weren’t given a choice. As likely as not, you were a hot mess of raging hormones, petulance and teenage angst, and anyone other than yourself was a source of unending embarrassment. If this is ringing any bells, then you will empathise with The Way Way Back’s pitiful abductee, Duncan (Liam James).
Fourteen-year-old Duncan is bullied into a vacation by his freshly divorced mother Pam (Toni Colette), her passive aggressive new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell), and his captious teenage daughter. En route to his Cape Cod beach house Trent gives Duncan a motivational talking to that sets the tone of their relationship. Asked to rate himself on a scale of one to ten, Duncan gives himself a reasonable six. Trent corrects this score to a three.
These constant reminders of Duncan’s shortcomings simply intensify his awkwardness, as does the attention of his well-meaning but forlorn mother. Trent’s menagerie of train-wreck friends and neighbours descend on the beach house, which sends Duncan bolting into town on a nice pink girls bike (replete with handlebar tassles). Things start to look up when he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), the charismatic man-child manager of the local water park with a terminal case of arrested development.
A part-time job at the water park is a welcome refuge from his familial difficulties, and under the mentorship of the charming Owen, Duncan begins to fill the blanks of his non-existent personality.
An ill-advised “hey, this kid’s okay after all” dance sequence raises the danger of the movie turning into a StreetDance 3D-style cringefest, but luckily is avenue is not pursued. During the initial stages of their relationship, Duncan absorbs Owen’s best material like a humour vacuum (“Do you get comedy?”). His mirthless persona is so pronounced that it is unlikely that either Owen or the sharp, stunning love interest, Susanna (AnnaSofia Robb ), would give him the time of day.
The Way Way Back has an unmistakeable eighties vibe, and Rockwell delivers the type of performance that used to be Chevy Chase’s bread and butter. The marketing pitch namechecks Little Miss Sunshine and Juno, but make no mistake, The Way Way Back is a movie aimed squarely at the surly teenager. It speaks to the terrified adolescent at that horrible stage when identity and personality are struggling to form individuality, and does it well. While it lacks the adult appeal of Little Miss Sunshine, it does share its heart, and the cynicism and studied cool of Juno is refreshingly absent. The movie’s “you’re okay as you are” message is pure after school special, but the delivery is undeniably sweet and more than a little touching, so don’t be surprised when it’s considered a cult tween classic in five years’ time.