Movie Reviews

July 12, 2013

The Way, Way Back

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Written by: Drew Waller
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FILM: The Way, Way Back
DIRECTOR: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
TOWERS: 5 out of 5

Nostalgia is a damn powerful thing. You never know when it will hit you and what it will do once it has you in its grip. The good news about THE WAY, WAY BACK is it commands this opportunity in a beautiful and masterful way. Duncan [played effortlessly, and with the power of a up-and-coming thespian – stuffed in an awkward, teenage package onscreen -- by “AMC’s THE KILLING” LIAM JAMES] is kidnapped for the summer with his mother [delivered in the same poignant intensity of MURIEL’S WEDDING, for grown women, by actress TONI COLLETTE] and her new boyfriend [STEVE CARELL] to a seaside vacation home that resides in sleepytown east coast, USA to no help of its central character.
What results is a step back into any timeframe from the 70s to present day with the same impact of displaced divorce, new nuclear family encounters and coming-of-age with no brakes in the vehicle. Duncan, desolate in his forced surroundings, is a “3” in the 1 to 10 ranking from this new man-of-the-house, and, what happens next is so far removed from his desire to dream the summer away at home that you can’t help but help him watch what happens next. What that is though, results in one of the best ensemble comedic dramas displayed on screen in some time. In the same vein as JOHN HUGHES films of the eighties, THE WAY, WAY BACK plays up what summer vacation is about: finding yourself while being given no options for true fun.

Duncan hates everything he’s given because it’s nothing he asked for. “Go have fun on the beach” he’s told when all he wants is to to unwind inside, or, at his discretion in the sun, to a hilarious interpretation of Air Supply’s ‘Can’t Fight This Feeling”; all while being busted from the gorgeous girl-next-door [played by CW’s THE CARRIE DIARIES ANNASOPHIA ROBB] that he soon learns is sailing in the same summer slump boat he sailed in on. Her mother [ALLISON JANEY] is the vacation town drunk who says what she wants when she wants to. The boyfriend’s area friends [played by AMANDA PEET and indie comedic darling ROB CORDDRY] are the couple who have it all and nothing at all, at the same time.

To escape, Duncan find his boyfriend’s daughter’s pre-teen bedazzled bike and wanders into the rest of the seaside town, complete with a waterpark aptly called Water Wizz. Yep, this can’t be any good and the result of his innocent inquiry delivers the best part of his, and our, discovery of what he can find for himself to truly “find himself”. SAM ROCKWELL plays his wayward mentor Owen who owns the dilapidated amusement oasis and his cast of employees employ the best sense of comedy and self-awareness to keep you laughing to the end of the film. MAYA RUDOLPH delivers on every cylinder as Owen’s water park crush who sadly has to play “bad cop” to every indifferent decision Owen delivers to keep himself sane and cyunical in this joke of an escape for the town’s residents. Duncan secretly starts to work at Water Wizz, unknown by his mother and soon the rebellion phase we all remember far too well begins. Duncan learns about himself and his challenges while just trying to fit in.

There is a scene where he comes to grips with what has become his new circumstances in life, and when turning to his crush Susanna [ROBB] for that movie moment kiss gets shut down and all he can say is “I’m sorry”. It hurts to watch, not only because of what is taking place to our lead but because of how that mistake has plagued ALL of us in one way or another. The awkward realization that you can’t get what you want when you want it is at both true and too close to the surface to help but spark a tear at his circumstances.

The final result however is a journey to adulthood that ripples throughout the entire cast. One that makes you happy that the craft of moviemaking is still alive and well; a journey to the local cinema you’ll want to do with Duncan again and again like looking through your vacation photos to similar, satisfying results.

About the Author

Drew Waller
Drew Waller

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