Two years after winning an Academy Award for their work on The Descendants screenplay, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon have teamed up once again to both write and direct another heartwarming film centred around family dysfunction.
The Way, Way Back is a classic summertime coming of age story complete with teenage angst, the girl-next-door and family feuds. Though filled with brooding young adults, the comedy/drama manages to deliver a lot of laughs with well timed awkward humour.
Liam James stars as Duncan, an unhappy teenage boy who is forced to spend the summer at his mom’s boyfriend’s summer house. The boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) is malicious towards Duncan.
While his mom parties with Trent and his friends, Duncan is left on his own to face what appears to be the worst summer ever.
While on a solitary bike ride, Duncan stumbles upon Water Wizz, a water park run by Owen (Sam Rockwell), an irresponsible yet comedic manager. Duncan finds acceptance and happiness amid the misfit park employees when Owen takes the boy under his wing and offers him a job.
AnnaSophia Robb plays Susanna, Duncan’s next door neighbour. She is also an outsider with family troubles, and the two soon find solace in one another. Their strange romance is the source of much of the film’s humour.
Though the story has been done before and is fairly predictable, solid acting makes the movie an enjoyable watch. Liam James portrays the introverted, angsty teenage boy to a tee. His unskilled attempts to converse with Susanna make the audience close its eyes and cringe at times and burst out laughing at others.
Jim Rash, best known for his role as Dean Pelton on Community, not only co-wrote and co-directed the film, but also plays an oddball worker at the water park. Although only seen in a couple of scenes, Rash delivers some of the most memorable and amusing lines
While the actors themselves performed well, the character development left a little to be desired. There are too many characters to delve into any of them beyond the surface level and many backstories are insinuated but not explored, making the characters seem a little hollow at times.
Beyond the light-hearted humour, the theme of being oneself runs throughout the film. Each character hides behind a veneer to protect themselves and must come to terms with and embrace who they truly are. Though it may not be the most original motif, perhaps it is a message we all need to be reminded of from time to time.
While The Way, Way Back falls short of classic coming-of-age tales like Stand by Me, the quirky characters and their clumsy yet honest attempts to find themselves remain both humorous and heartwarming, solidifying it as a worthwhile and enjoyable way to spend an evening.
Photo: Fox Searchlight