Sunday, July 21, 2013
The Way, Way Back
Written, directed, and co-starring Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Way, Way Back is the story about a 14-year old kid who goes on a summer holiday where he hangs around and later works at a water park to deal with his summertime blues and his growing disdain towards his mother’s boyfriend. The film is an exploration into a young boy’s summer as he finds a place where he belongs while dealing with the chaos in his family life. Also starring Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Annasophia Robb, Zoe Levin, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, and Liam James. The Way, Way Back is a fantastic film from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
The film explores a summer in the life of an introverted 14-year old boy named Duncan (Liam James) who finds a home in a nearby water park run by a carefree manager named Owen (Sam Rockwell). Especially as the boy is dealing with growing pains as his mom’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) is very critical and says mean things to him. While his mother Pam (Toni Collette) and Trent spend their time with other adults, Duncan spends more time at the water park where he also works while bonding with another jaded teen in Susanna (Annasophia Robb). The film is a coming-of-age tale where this boy deals with his situation that includes his father moving to California and that his mother’s boyfriend is an absolute dickhead. In Owen, Duncan finds the father-figure he needs as well as being true to himself.
The film’s screenplay explores the complicated life of this 14-year-old boy who is a very introverted individual that is considered odd by Trent and his teenager daughter Steph (Zoe Levin) as he is also aghast by the craziness his mother has with other adults as he feels like his mother isn’t aware of how he’s really feeling. Especially as she’s often with Trent and some friends of his where some of Trent’s activities and behavior give Duncan more reasons to dislike him as Trent often states that they should bond and be in tune together. Owen is an extremely different person that Duncan can identify with as he’s sort of a man-child who runs a water park and likes to have fun. Owen also helps Duncan come out of his shell by giving him a job and advice on life as well as how to win the heart of Susanna who hates having to deal with her boozy mother Betty (Allison Janney).
The direction of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash is quite straightforward as they don’t really aim for a sense of cinematic style by rather just focusing on the story and keeping things simple. The compositions are still engaging while they allow the comedy to be loose and natural along with some of the smaller moments where it plays to Duncan’s development. Faxon and Rash know where to put the actors in the background while having them be placed in moments that can advance the story. Even in the drama where it relates to Duncan’s testy relationship with Trent where Duncan discovers things that would have a dramatic impact in how it relates to Duncan’s desire to protect his mother. Still, Faxon and Rash bring a lot of fun into the film in many of the scenes at the water park as it’s shot in an actual water park in Massachusetts where it has a bit of realism in the story. Overall, Faxon and Rash create a very vital and lively film about a young boy’s summer of fun and coming into his own.
Cinematographer John Bailey does excellent work with the film‘s colorful cinematography from the look of the locations in Massachusetts and the water park to the scenes at night with its use of natural light. Editor Tatiana S. Riegel does wonderful work with the editing as it‘s quite straightforward while using some nice rhythmic cuts and montages to play out the sense of fun Duncan has at the water park. Production designer Mark Ricker, with set decorator Rena DeAngelo and art director Jeremy Woodward, does amazing work with the set pieces from the look of the home to some of the small props created for the water park.
Costume designers Michelle Maitland and Ann Roth do terrific work with the costumes as it‘s mostly casual with some style to play into some of the female characters in the film. Sound editor Perry Robertson does nice work with the sound to play up the energy of the parties and such along with the craziness at the water park. The film’s music by Rob Simonsen is fantastic for its mixture of folk and indie music to play up Duncan‘s journey while music supervisor Linda Cohen creates a soundtrack that mixes 80s music with some folk and indie as it’s a fun soundtrack to listen to.
The casting by Allison Jones is brilliant as it features some notable small roles from River Alexander as Susanna’s nerdy younger brother Peter and Zoe Levin as Trent’s bitchy teenage daughter Steph. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash are funny in their respective roles as water park employees Roddy and the nerdy Lewis while Maya Rudolph is wonderful as the more responsible water park co-manager Caitlyn. Allison Janney is hilarious as Susanna’s boozy mother Betty who always carries a drink and always wear clothes to show her sex appeal. Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet are terrific as the couple Kip and Joan whom Trent and Pam hang out with Corddry as the more wild Kip and Peet as the more vivacious Joan.
Annasophia Robb is wonderful as Susanna as a teenage girl jaded by the summer and what her mother is doing as she bonds with Duncan while finding out where he goes and what he does as she also finds a good time. Toni Collette is excellent as Duncan’s mother Pam as a mother wanting to have a good time while dealing with Duncan’s disappearances and moodiness as well as Trent’s often peculiar behavior. Steve Carell is fantastic as Trent as this guy who is a grade A asshole that always says very off-putting things and tries to assure his sense of being a man in his attempt to make Duncan more manly as he truly doesn’t get him. Sam Rockwell is phenomenal as Owen as a man who helps Duncan deal with his growing pains while giving him a place where he can feel at home. Finally, there’s Liam James in a marvelous performance as Duncan as he exudes all of the moodiness of a confused 14-year old kid who is looking for a place in the world as he eventually finds somewhere that he can belong to and have the summer of his life as James brings a lot of sensitivity and energy to his character.
The Way, Way Back is a superb coming-of-age film from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. Armed with an great ensemble cast as well as an engaging story about a young teen trying to fit in and do something in the summer. It’s a film that is very heartwarming but also very funny while giving something that audiences can relate to. In the end, The Way, Way Back is a remarkable film from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
© thevoid99 2013
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I quite like coming-of-age tales and this certainly sounds like an enchanting one. Great review, man!
Thank you. I was supposed to see something else but ended up watching this film and man, I had a great time as I was also able to relate to the lead character as I'm also an introvert.
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