We’ve seen The Way Way Back’s Duncan so many times that the telling of the story has lost its power to cliche. Alone, awkward, but bright and clever, Duncan is losing himself to his ability to withdraw, and the lack of anyone, or anything, to convince him not to run with the idea. His mother is more interested in her new boyfriend, more as a coping mechanism than an actual love, and Duncan winds up with the short end of the stick. This is what we see in the Way Way Back trailer.
In a vein decidedly similar to such recent efforts as Juno and Little Miss Sunshine, we have another installment in the “restore our faith in humanity” genre that showcases why some ideas keep coming around. A charming, easy comedy that once again explores those moments that make us who we are, The Way Way Back is ultimately a triumph of film-making, also finding similarity to recent marvel, Submarine, because there isn’t a lot that happens, beyond a certain connection.
Naturally, we need a fair amount of social awkwardness, which Duncan (Liam James) provides in spades, and for this go around, we have a boy that is (more or less) bullied by his mother’s boyfriend (Steve Carell).
It’s “that one summer,” and in this case, it’s Duncan’s time at an Aqua park, and meeting Owen (Sam Rockwell). Owen becomes a kind of mentor to Duncan, and the summer turns into that stage of the game where, finally with a little help, Duncan comes into his own. With just that nudge that Duncan needs, Owen instills in him a certain faith in himself, and helps him move past the opinions of others. There’s a real honesty to the way things progress, which is as surprising as it is familiar (because who doesn’t have that one friend, mentor, and/or summer?), and the overall ride is delivered remarkably by the surefire cast.
Few movies manage a tangible change in young characters, or let you in on their journey so well, and it all comes to you in a comic package that sucks you in. It’s a curious combination of rough work ahead, and then suddenly finding that it already happened without your noticing, largely because, that’s the way the toughest things actually happen.
THE WAY, WAY BACK is the funny and poignant coming of age story of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette), her overbearing boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and his daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin). Having a rough time fitting in, the introverted Duncan finds an unexpected friend in gregarious Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the Water Wizz water park. Through his funny, clandestine friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up to and begins to finally find his place in the world – all during a summer he will never forget.
The Way, Way Back Gallery