The Way Way Back (2013) – Film Review

The Way Way Back 

Starring Liam James, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, and Allison Janey

Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash

IMDB Rating: 7.4

Review written by Rachel Geiger

This is an endearing coming of age film that perfectly captures the ups and downs that happen during the summer.

The Way Way Back is about a 14 year old who is forced to spend his summer at his mom’s boyfriend’s summer house along the beach. He’s an awkward teen who is finding his way in the world and also has a crush on the pretty teenage neighbor girl. Duncan quickly gets bored with hanging around the house so he strikes up a friendship with Owen who works at the local waterpark. Duncan begins working there and meeting the other strange yet fun employees.

The plot may seem like every other coming of age film that’s already out there. I feel like the story is a little more complex than what the general plot reveals. Owen is what makes the plot more different and unique. In theory, he’s meant to be the cool guy that shows Duncan how to have fun. How it comes across on the screen is much more interesting and fun to watch. He does serve as a guide for Duncan but he’s also an amusing and sort of rare character. Most coming of age films do have the zany cool character but most of them aren’t that much older.

The performances are amazing in this movie. Steve Carrel is probably the most surprising of all. He plays the role of the jerky boyfriend to Duncan’s mom perfectly. He says such cutting yet realistic things to Duncan that you can see actually happening to someone. Toni Collette does a nice job as Duncan’s mom but I think it’d be nice to see more complexity to the character earlier on in the film. Sam Rockwell is hilarious as Owen, Duncan’s guide through the waterpark. Allison Janey is eccentric and fun to watch. She steals the movie in many ways. The teenagers are on the predictable angsty side but Liam James is believable as the angsty and awkward Duncan. It has a solid ensemble cast which is always a memorable and good method to keeping the movie always interesting.

The film is Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s directing debut is a success. The two impressively wrote, directed, and acted in the film. The directing style stands out to me because the shots the two choose to highlight are different yet smart choices. For example, they show Duncan going down the slide at the waterpark from his point of view. You can see the person in front of him and you can see him as he reaches the end of the slide and ends up in the water. The subtle choices are what makes the movie so good.

The Way Way Back manages to be a charming film and avoids the misconceptions of being just like every other coming of age story. The performances by the supporting characters are worth watching. If you watch this movie, be prepared to see Steve Carrel is a role like you’ve never seen from him. Just a fair warning: you’re bound to hate him because his character is so unbearable and rude to Duncan for absolutely no reason at all. The film is so complex due to the different roads the plot chooses to go on. It’s definitely a must watch!