Mon. May 16th, 2022

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Film Review – The Way Way Back

2 min read

The Way Way Back is the directorial debut of successful Oscar-winning screenwriters Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants), and is the story of a brooding 14 year-old’s summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette), her boyfriend (Steve Carell), and his daughter. The young teenager Duncan, played by Liam James, is awkward, uncertain, and unable to find his place around his mother and her boyfriend’s 40-something friends or with the older and very superficial teenage daughter until he meets up with the quirky, comedic water-park owner Owen (Sam Rockwell), who takes him on as an employee at the park and as a mentee. As the summer passes, with Owen’s encouragement, Duncan comes out of his shell and faces some truths about his self, his mother, his distant and uninterested father, and his mother’s jerky boyfriend. It’s a funny, bittersweet, sometimes cringe-inducing summer-at-the-beach, adolescent- coming-of-age type story.

Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have crafted a wonderful screenplay and assembled a brilliant ensemble cast. The characters are funny, and real, and relatable, and not extreme caricatures of people that are often portrayed in nostalgic comedies. The dialogue is charming, sometimes hilarious, and at other times raw and tense.  One of the most intense and memorable scenes in the film is when the family plays a game of Candyland. The perfect irony is created as the dialogue mixes between sweet gumdrops and candy canes, to the sour emotions and bitter feelings as his mother and her boyfriend argue about the rules…him not wanting to cheat, but her saying it’s okay to bend the rules.

THE WAY, WAY BACK

The acting in the film is superb. Though Steve Carell fell a little flat for me, the other actors in the ensemble cast deliver great performances. Allison Janney as the boozy neighbor is hilarious, and steals every scene she is in. Sam Rockwell is perfect as Owen, and Toni Collette delivers the goods in her role as Duncan’s mother by showing the range and depth of emotion in this role that makes her, in my opinion, one of the best. This will no doubt be the breakout role for Liam James, a very talented young actor who delivers a mature performance as Duncan and who solidifies the ensemble cast of some of the most respected actors in the business.

Overall, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have assembled a great cast to deliver on a fantastic screenplay in The Way Way Back. It is funny, insightful, nostalgic, and very entertaining.

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