The Way, Way Back: We’ve All Been There (2013)

Posted: July 22, 2013 in Comedy, Drama

the-way-way-back-poster1-404x600Duncan’s teenage years are not going the way he would have hoped. On vacation for the summer with his mom, he is frustrated by the fact that his mom’s boyfriend, Trent, and his daughter are tagging along. Once at the beach, he immediately detaches from everything and everyone, feeling trapped among people who all seem happier than he is. At every opportunity, he tries to escape Trent’s condescending ways. His efforts eventually land him at a water park owned by a man he met at a local restaurant. Their chance meeting turns into a job and an escape from the drama happening back at the beach house. Meanwhile in the chance moments he is actually at the house, he gains further suspicion that Trent is not a good partner for his mother.

Starring: Steve Carell (Trent), Toni Collette (Pam), Allison Janney (Betty), Sam Rockwell (Owen), Liam James (Duncan), Maya Rudolph (Caitlin), AnnaSophia Robb (Susanna), Rob Corddry (Kip), Amanda Peet (Joan), River Alexander (Peter), Zoe Levin (Steph), Nat Faxon (Roddy)

While there are some well-established actors in this film, it is Liam James that took the central role on the screen. While his character is very slow to develop for the first half of the story, it fits his portrayal of the walls that must be broken down before getting to his true desires. Carell’s character was appropriately off-putting, while Collette had a quiet sense of anguish that she battled throughout the film. The Janney seemed to sap all of the energy from the scenes that included Corddry and Peet, Rockwell and Rudolph were incredibly endearing and added a great additional plot to the story.

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Nat Faxon’s and Jim Rash’s film about the awkwardness of teenage years of a non-nuclear family hit a soft spot for people looking to connect with the weird and abhor the conservative nature infidelity. Duncan had a sense that there was something wrong with Trent for a long time, and he was frustrated that his mother could not see it herself. Exacerbated by the presence of Trent’s obnoxious daughter and boisterous, promiscuous friends, Duncan retreated further into himself in order to try to ignore that madness happening around him. While he was never fully able to let himself feel more free and open, the presence of the quirky Susanna and energetic friends at Water Wizz water park saved him from feeling alone among his family.

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Teenage years are hard enough as young boys and girls struggle to find themselves and their context against the rest of the world, but Duncan’s situation was exacerbated by an over-controlling father figure, a submissive mother and wild can crazy family friends. It also did not help that his potential sister in-law was harassing him and making him feel small. When pressured like that, it can be easy to bottle up the emotions, which is what happened with Duncan. He would not allow himself to fully trust anyone, but Owen’s strange personality and utter openness about anything and everything finally made an impact. It gave him the strength to stand up for himself and his mom, while also allowing himself to open his heart to other people. Duncan was able to exhibit true personal growth after he let himself be more proud of who he really was.

The Way, Way Back is a truly endearing story with a lot of cute moments and laughable interactions. Sam Rockwell really made the friendly bond with Liam work as both a comedic outlet and dramatic guideline.

Dan’s Rating: 4.0/5


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