Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The Way, Way Back Review

After the success of writing The Descendants, an oddly uplifting, heartwarming experience considering it’s a story about a mother and wife going into a coma after an accident, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon got a chance to share the director’s chair – it’s possible they had two, but reports remain unconfirmed. The Way Way Back follows the same way The Descendants does by making light of uncomfortable situations but instead of a man having to become a real father to his kids, it’s a kid having to actually put himself out there. Otherwise he’ll remain a 3 out of 10. This is the familiar coming-of-age dramedy but it’s got actors that are known and loved putting in fantastic performances alongside a few young newcomers. Mixing its indie style with its famous cast, its offbeat dramatic but happy writing can turn any frown upside down.

Summer: no school, family getaways, parties, drinking and fun. Not really the case for 14 year-old Duncan (Liam James) who’s on holiday with his mum Pam (Toni Collette), her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) at a sunny seaside town. Duncan is the typically awkward, anti-social outcast that’s expected which starts off a little grating wearing jeans to the beach for no apparent reason other than suffering in his own skin. Early on it’s hard to feel sorry for him because he brings much of it on himself. Then, when he discovers the water park managed by Owen (Sam Rockwell and yes he does dance), his life beings to change as he starts to belong, starts to find friends, to build as a person. We know where it’s going but the journey is one of the most pleasurable of the year, infecting you with warmth and hollowing out your chest whenever it wants.

Touched upon before was the performances and the ensemble cast really work well together. Liam James as a youngster with talent to spare but hopefully won’t suffer the awkward typecasting that could befall him. Toni Collette is a mother in turmoil with plenty of emotion to show whenever she feels like spilling herself out. Steve Carell is an ignorantly vicious villain who damages others accidentally or to manipulate, projecting his own insecurities onto those around him. It’s a magnificently layered performance of someone who thinks he’s doing something good by telling Duncan he’s a 3 when in reality he’s crushing him. Sam Rockwell is on top form as expected as the carefree, irresponsible but fun water park manager. He may dance or joke around but he cares for the people at least, loving all of his co-workers and customers. Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon fill in the blanks with great personalities and AnnaSophia Robb plays the girl next door, Susanna, who has more to offer than the vapid company she keeps. Allison Janney plays her loudmouth mother with a funny-annoying authenticity.

The film was originally supposed to be set in 1984 and you can feel it, it has that vibe, much like Adventureland‘s. All pumped out with a typically retro soundtrack could give this film a timeless quality, comfortably capturing the moments to transcend time by listening to REO Speedwagon on an iPhone. Writing about a thematically familiar concept that’s been done plenty of times before is risky but they’ve captured youth and have it glowing from its saturated hues of summer. The Way Way Back may not be new or an entirely original story but it’s so damn charming and sweet that it’s hard not to fall in love with a film as good natured and well made as this. It’s simple, effective and hits all the right notes at the right times, designing an uplifting movie event that will hit you with personal truths, make you leave with a smile but long for the youthful days of summer.