Being reminded of your awkward teenage years can be cringe worthy. Those awkward conversations with that boy you like, puberty, those ungraceful moments that we all remember.
The Way Way Back, is exactly that. A visual representation of what it is like to be a teenager, growing up, navigating through all the awkwardness. The script is a beautiful, and brilliantly written movie, penned by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (The Descendants) that also carve out their hilarious characters in the film.
The story is one that that stays in your heart and mind long after you have left the theater, and that is really the marker of a great movie for me.
The story follows young 14 year old Duncan as he is forced into a pseudo family holiday with his mother Pam (Toni Colette), Trent her domineering boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his sullen daughter Steph (Zoe Levin).
Steve Carell plays his role to perfection and channels the guy that you love to hate. He is domineering, obnoxious, aggressive and totally devoid of compassion for his potential future son. The film opens with a poignant scene that makes your heart hurt.
Duncan is sitting in the way way back that seat facing backwards in those old-school station wagons. Trent asks him to rate himself as a person from 1 to 10. Already we get an inkling of what kind of person Trent is to become, but at this stage we are still hopeful.
“A 6” says Duncan, awkwardly.
“I think you’re a 3” says Trent.
But rather than “help” him as Trent so vehemently believes he is doing, he only serves to compound Duncan’s misery, self-doubt and resonating sadness that makes you fall in love with Duncan almost instantaneously. It might be pity, but even now, you want him to fight back.
There is a raw and real quality to the movie in the relationships that they explore, despite what might be construed as a stereotypical cast. We all see a bit of ourselves in each character and it becomes confronting, particularly in the failings of Pam and Trent as parents. The obvious commentary here is how much kids suffer when adults change their lives without regard for their children.
Duncan finds salvation stumbling upon a water theme park, Wizzy World, thanks to the manager who befriends him, Owen (played by Sam Rockwell). The cast here really makes it which includes Naja Rudolph, Allison Janney, Jim Rash and Nat Faxxon who work together to form a hilarious band of misfits. Owen obviously sees something of himself and his own childhood in Duncan and despite his childlike demeanor, works wonders on Duncan’s spirit and confidence. His kindness is heartwarming, and as you see Duncan blossom into a more confident young man, your heart melts.
There are some really powerful moments which I will leave for you to discover on your own, which leave you emotional and raw and frustrated at the unjustness. I will say that there is not a whole lot of salvation from this, which I think is a clever move on the writers part emphasizing the fact that while we want everything unjust to be resolved, in the real world, it doesn’t always happen that way.
The Way, Way Back is quite simply, perfect. It’s a wistful look at our youth and an exploration of growing up- the very very good, and the very bad that makes us stronger and wiser and more interesting people.
All in all, a brilliant movie…I highly recommend you watch it!
Rating: 9 out of 10.