Saturday, December 14, 2013

The Way, Way Back Review

The Way, Way Back Review
You know what I love? A good old fashioned, coming-of-age story.

I don't know how many of you know who Nat Faxon is, but he and his writing partner Jim Rash are two guys to look out for. If you were to Google Nat Faxon, you'd definitely recognize him. He's been in such comedies as "Beerfest," "Orange County," "Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story," "Bad Teacher" and "Zookeeper." To my surprise, Faxon can do more than comedy, him and Rash can be heartbreaking, poetic, and passionate. Their first screenplay they wrote together was "The Descendants" a good 2011 movie starring George Clooney, a screenplay that got both Faxon and Rash an Academy Award. Now in 2013, Faxon and Rash wrote AND directed "The Way, Way Back," another fantastic piece to put on their resumes.

Duncan (Liam James) is a 14-year-old down on his luck. He's stuck going on a summer vacation with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), and his mother's boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell). It's clear from the beginning of the film that, despite what Trent has told Pam, he despises Duncan and throws emotional abuse at him like snowballs. Duncan wishes that he could have stayed with his father for the summer, but he's stuck with Mom. Duncan clearly has trouble fitting in anywhere, until he meets the laid-back Owen (Sam Rockwell). Imagine a guy who is a mixture between The Dude from "The Big Lebowski" and David Wooderson from "Dazed and Confused." That's Owen. Owen runs a water park close to where Duncan is staying, and Owen takes Duncan under his wing for the summer. What ensues is coming-of-age, family drama, young romance and plenty of things to laugh at.

Faxon and Rash brought great actors onboard to make this movie work. It's not often that we get to see Carrell play a complete and utter asshole, but Carrell can be a lot more than a Brick from "Anchorman." I think we are only beginning to see what Carrell can do as a performer, and I hope he gets more roles like this. I have enjoyed Collette and Rockwell my entire life and they are both magnificent again. Liam James as Duncan is the glue to then entire movie, and James nails it. The hunched walk, the awkward mannerisms, the total shyness, the creepy stares, James mastered all of it. In movies like this, we have to buy into the kids, otherwise the movie fails. Faxon and Rash got a great kid for the lead role, here's to seeing more Liam James in the future. These great performances mixed with a supporting cast that includes Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet, well, how can you go wrong?

What was undeniable about "The Way, Way Back" is how I couldn't help but see myself in many of the characters and in many of the situations. It's always a plus if a filmmaker can somehow put a mirror to my face and have me reflect upon myself. 2013 has been a stellar year for coming-of-age films, so if you haven't seen this yet, go ahead and rent it now.

FINAL GRADE: A-

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