(The Way, Way Back 103 minutes. Rated PG-13 (profanity, sexual content) Cast: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, and Liam James. Written and Directed by Nat Faxon, Jim Rash. 20th Century Fox)
Few films are capable of taking the over worked theme of painful adolescence and make it original or interesting. Ths film succeeds with the latter. We’ve seen this story before, what makes this version succeed is the cast and direction. This coming of age film details the angst of teenagers and cringe inducing antics of adults behaving badly with raw honesty.The camera doesn’t turn away from the uncomfortable moments by cutting the scene short or going for easy resolutions. The characters all strike the right tone with their reaction to a lot of heart ache.
Shy, awkward 14 year Duncan (Liam James) spends the summer at the family beach house with his mother (Toni Collette), her obnxoious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell) and his surly daughter (AnnaSophia Robb). Adding to the mix is the gossipy neighbor (Allison Janney) and her partying husband (Robb Corrdry). Duncan’s isolation is overworked in the first half hour but once he meets Owen, (Sam Rockwell) the fast talking hip manager at the local water park the story takes off. It’s his friendship with Owen that helps draw him out of his shell and gives him the confidence to stand up to the self absorbed adults.
The actors get their characters good and bad qualities just right. The surprise was casting Rockwell as the smart ass but likable Owen while Steve Carrell plays against type as the rotten boyfriend. Allison Janney was pitch perfect as the neighbor who is a bad influence. Writer/directors Naxon and Rush also do a great job in minor roles as Owen’s co-workers. The Way Way Back is a refreshing take on familar material right to the end.