As mentioned last week in The Sunday Spew, in a bid to review all of the October DVD releases of films I’ve yet to see I’ve managed to get through three out of thirteen of them. I was planning on doing a similar post to September’s DVD offerings, but I felt there were far too many to fit, and besides, some of them deserve their very own post I feel. As was also mentioned, I watched The Way Way Back after a recommendation.
This touching comedy/drama is both written and directed by Nat Faxon (Actor: Bad Teacher, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Writer: The Descendants) and Jim Nash (Actor: Community and Writer: The Descendants), and unsurprisingly, both also have small roles in the film. Starring Toni Collette (Muriel’s Wedding, In Her Shoes, Little Miss Sunshine) as recently divorced Pam who finds herself in a relationship with Steve Carell’s (The Office, Anchorman) overbearing and unpleasant Trent, The Way Way Back sees them take a summer trip together with Pam’s supremely awkward fourteen year old son Duncan, who is played by Liam James (2012, Psych) and Trent’s vacuous, unrelatable daughter whose name I have forgotten and couldn’t be bothered to look up.
Harbouring an intense dislike for Trent, his mother’s new boyfriend, Duncan strives to be away from their annoyingly inappropriate canoodling (I don’t blame ya, kid) as often as he possibly can. It is during one of these daily absconding missions that he encounters Owen, who is the manager of Water Wizz water park and is played by Sam Rockwell (The Green Mile, Moon).
The cast all provide performances worthy of some applause. Carell is spot on in his portrayal of the tedious Trent. There was more than one occasion while watching when I would have loved to knee him in the goolies in real life. Liam Jones is convincing as the unresponsive adolescent Duncan, and AnnaSophia Robb (The Carrie Diaries) was beyond adorable as Susanna, the girl next door. Allison Janney (The West Wing) as her lush mother and Pam’s only real champion was hilarious and gave what would almost prove to be my favourite performance of the film. The star of it all though, for myself as well as many others, was Sam Rockwell, who struck the balance of comedic and heartfelt delivery perfectly. His Peter Pan persona mixed with some unavoidable life experience made him the perfect mentor for the young Duncan, whose self-esteem and self-confidence, should it be encouraged and allowed to, could potentially soar. Having seen Rockwell only recently in Seven Psychopaths I continue to be impressed by him and am looking forward to what he might do in the future. His presence made me wish that all of the fourteen year olds in the world could have an Owen of their own.
Despite being a fiercely talented actress, I often feel uncomfortable watching Toni Collette. If I had to hazard a guess as to why I could probably say that it is because the emotions she strives to convey are just there, underneath the surface, heartbreakingly obvious in an expression that makes me fear she’ll dissolve into tears at any time.
I don’t really do well with these kinds of public emotional breakdowns, even when I know they’re just happening in movies and not really in public. The Way Way Back made me cringe almost as much as it made me laugh. There is one scene, near the end, where a secret or two comes to light and there’s a huge showdown in front of about two dozen party people. We Irish are perfectly capable of getting drunk and making complete eejits out of ourselves, but there are no “feels” allowed. The only time tears are acceptable are during weddings and funerals. People get so uncomfortable when you break the rule, it’s actually hilarious.
So I’m blaming my ethnicity on my lack of empathy for the characters involved in that particular scene.
I have to put my own inability to emote aside though and give praise where it is due. I was worried, having declared The Descendants to be overrated and dare I say it, boring, that I would feel The Way Way Back was cut from the same cloth. Thankfully it wasn’t. It wanted to make me smile instead of cry and I did very much enjoy this coming of age journey that didn’t just affect a young boy, but absolutely everyone around him, and mostly for the better too.
IMDB Rating: 7.5
Do I agree?: Yes, absolutely. Would recommend this to anyone.