The Way, Way Back is an absolutely brilliant film which is funny, moving, uplifting and features a great cast. The film focuses on the difficulties faced by Duncan, a 14 year old boy (Liam James), on summer holiday as he tries to deal with puberty, girls and his new post-divorce family dynamic. His father doesn’t want to take responsibility for him, and his mum’s new odious boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell), pushes Duncan away, resulting in him seeking fatherly guidance from Owen (Sam Rockwell), the Water-Wizz park manager.
Liam James gives a brilliant performance as Duncan, the film’s awkward lead and we feel for him when he comes out of his anxiety filled shell. Even more memorable than the lead however are the performances given by the supporting actors. Sam Rockwell stands out as Owen, an unconventional father figure to Duncan who inadvertently helps him overcome his shyness and anxieties about life. Owen might appear superficial at the film’s outset but as it progresses, we know that his eccentricities mask an inner vulnerability. He attempts to steer Duncan away from the same mistakes and lonely fate that he has created for himself.
Allison Janney’s character, Betty, is reminiscent of her role as Ms Perky in 10 Things I Hate About You; a blunt honesty remains, the only difference is that it is aimed towards her son, fuelled as she is by bitterness and booze. While this may sound like a bad combination of traits, the portrayal is hilarious and it relieves some of the tension that is created by the serious aspects of the film. Betty can easily be recognised as the “embarrassing mother” and she allows The Way,Way Back to remain a light-hearted comedy. Other members of a strong supporting cast include: Steve Carrell, Toni Collette (from Little Miss Sunshine, In Her Shoes), AnnaSophia Robb (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Bridge to Terabithia)and Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids).
Film-making duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash have joined forces once again, after their collaboration on The Descendants, to take on the writer and director role (Rash also acts) in The Way, Way Back. Originating from the same studio that gave us Little Miss Sunshine, this latest offering has the same “heart-warming yet awkward” feel as it addresses serious issues set within a humorous environment, and featuring similarly bright and colourful cinematography. The film manages to deal with real issues in a very serious manner without lowering its status as a heart-warming comedy. It looks primarily at the awkward teenage years from which we have all had to emerge, and also addresses how divorce affects the children in the family. At points the scripting is somewhat exaggerated, most noticeably with Duncan’s teenage sister who appears to be the leader of a Mean Girls type clique. Other than this, the story is representative of real life and many people will find that it triggers memories from a similarly awkward period in all our lives.