The Way, Way Back (2013) Review

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Plot: Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

Liam James expertly plays Duncan, the lead character in this charming dramedy film from screenwriter/director team Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. His performance, one of the finest performances from anybody – any age – this entire year, was an equally brilliant combination of realism, his character and performance of the character just felt so life-like, and of course awkwardness was added to the combination very well. Infact the entire cast gave such wonderful performances, Toni Collette  very nicely plays Duncan’s mother Pam, and Steve Carell equally well played Duncan’s rude stepfather Trent, in what I think is his best performance to date.

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There’s actually a key scene at the very beginning to set-up just how mean of a guy he is; they all are driving to their vacation home and Trent asks Duncan what he thinks his number is out of 10, meaning looks, personality, etc, and Duncan thinks he is a 6. But of course Trent tells him he is a 3, and proceeds to just crush him in a really icy way, and you can see what kind of a lonely character Duncan is from that scene as well just by the way he sort of slumps there and looks sadly off into the distance. But that of course all changes when he meets Owen.

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Also joining the incredibly talented cast are favorites Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, and Sam Rockwell, and people I am just warming up to such as AnnaSophia Robb, and Nat Faxon and Jim Rash themselves. Sam Rockwell was one of the reasons I very much wanted to see this film, and he of course did not disappoint, giving such a brilliant performance. He has never been so charming, and he and Maya Rudolph play off of each other so well. Infact the entire ensemble-like cast have such great chemistry together.

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Perhaps my favorite scene of the entire film was when Duncan first meets Owen, the owner of the Water Wizz Water Park in which Duncan later becomes an employee of. They tease each other back and forth the entire film, and I just couldn’t wait for those two to be in their next scenes together. There’s a real sweetness to their chemistry together though, you can see from the very beginning that they’ll become best friends and that Duncan will finally cheer up somewhat.

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I was a little worried at how the story would actually turn out, parts of thos story have been done before with varying degrees of success – the fighting, divorced parents/the rude stepfather/the feeling of loneliness and or alienation from the main leading character – – but I was extremely surprised at how well the story turned out: it was a very sweet story written with love and care by Rash and Faxon. The writing flowed amazingly well without a single dull moment. But I was most surprised at how realistically human they spun the story; we have all at one time or another encountered characters like Duncan, or Trent, or Owen in our lifetime.

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I was also a tad weary at how comedy would play into the story, with puns flying every which way every single little moment, mainly by ever-so-charming Sam Rockwell, but I am extremely happy to report that, not only was the story sweet and human, but the dialogue that went along with it was also refreshingly funny.

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In conclusion, Jim Rash and Nat Faxon truly hit the trifecta with “The Way, Way Back”: well directed actors, an excellent and talented ensemble cast equally flourishing in their roles, and a sweet, humanly written, genuinely funny script. I can easily see the screenplay being nominated for Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars, as well as a Best Supporting Actor for Sam Rockwell, perhaps I can even see Liam James and/or Allison Janney being nominated. I don’t think it is possible for me to recommend this brilliant film any more than I have, it is truly one of the finest movies of 2013!

My Rating: 10/10

Thanks for Reading!

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