The Way, Way Back, written and directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon (the Oscar-winning writers of The Descendants), is my favorite film so far this year. I don’t say this lightly since this has been a pretty good year for movies, but what sets this movie apart is its humor, touching script, and all-star cast. I have been waiting to talk about my love of this movie for a couple of months now, and I’m glad to finally be able to tell everyone, GO SEE THIS MOVIE!!! It is the indie film everyone will be talking about this summer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it receives a few Oscar nominations as well.
This coming-of-age story focuses on Duncan (Liam James), a fourteen-year-old boy that is forced to spend the summer at the beach with his mom Pam (Toni Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s teenage daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). While a summer at the beach may not sound that bad, it is… especially since Trent is a huge jerk that belittles Duncan almost to the point of abuse. For example, at the beginning of the film, Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of one to ten. When Duncan says he believes he’s a six, Trent quickly corrects him, saying he is a three. Unfortunately, Pam rarely sees this behavior and Duncan doesn’t want to upset her by telling her about it.
After one particularly difficult day in the beach house, Duncan decides to escape. He rides his bike to a nearby water park to hang out for the rest of the afternoon. After a few days of lingering, Owen (Sam Neill), the goofy manager with a heart of gold, notices the friendless Duncan and takes him under his wing. Owen introduces Duncan to the rest of the water park’s quirky employees and hires him to work there for the rest of the summer. Here, Duncan finds a nice, dependable father figure in Owen and a family in the rest of the water park employees. Once a loner, Duncan’s life-changing experience at the water park allows him to feel comfortable enough to come out of his shell and be a part of a community.
Not only is the script one of the best of the year, but the acting is top-notch too. Liam James was the heart of the film. His ability to transition from an insecure boy to a confident young man was one of the best character arcs I’ve seen so far this year. Toni Collette, proves, like always, why she is the queen of indie films. Collette expertly showed Pam’s insecurity and desperation to find a man. Portraying desperation without becoming annoyingly pathetic (and losing the audience’s sympathy) is one of the hardest things to pull off, and Collette does so with ease.
The best performance in the film is Steve Carell. Carell took a huge risk, playing a character that is far different, and far meaner, than any you have ever seen him play. Seriously, he is such a jerk that he is almost unrecognizable! I kept waiting for his character to change his ways (like in many other movies), but refreshingly, that doesn’t happen. Once a jerk, always a jerk. I should also give a shout-out to Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell, whose sincerity and comedic talent are used perfectly in the film! Both of the actors’ characters provide great support systems for Duncan and Pam. At the end of the film, one scene in particular makes me burst into tears. It involves Betty (Janney) saying to Pam, “I think you’re awesome”. I think that is one of the only times anyone has ever said that to Pam, and I thought that scene was incredibly touching.
Definitely do not miss seeing this film in theaters this holiday weekend! It is the best film of the year (so far), and you will not be disappointed by your choice. It is the perfect blend of humor and heart and I think everyone will be talking about this film for years to come.
**I also had the opportunity to interview the film’s writer/directors! It was great talking to them about the film-making process and their worst summer jobs. Check it out here!
My Review: A+