I was at a loss this week as the cinema listings were diabolical – either I’d seen it or didn’t want to see it. Until a little gem popped up in the form of The Way Way Back, I hadn’t seen the trailer but I had heard good reviews and someone on Twitter recommended it too. Ah well, I thought, may as well give this ‘teenage angst drama-comedy’ a try and if I feel like shooting myself in the face afterwards so be it.
I’m pleased to tell you that my face is intact, and The Way Way Back is surprisingly VERY enjoyable. Mainly down to Sam Rockwell’s fantastic character, Owen, which I will talk about more later. ‘Teenage angst drama comedy’ you say? Sounds pretty lame, and actually the premise doesn’t make it sound much better… “Shy 14-year-old Duncan goes on summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and her boyfriend’s daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.”IMDB.
Steve Carell plays Trent, the mother’s boyfriend – an interesting role as I have never seen him play the bad guy (Despicable Me does not count guys), and he was disturbingly very believable as a complete arse hole! Underhanded insults and snide comments made Trent an easy character to hate, I found him really relatable too as I’m sure most people remember being 14 and taking EVERYTHING to heart. Every one has known a Trent at some point in their teenage years.
Duncan’s mother Pam, is played by Toni Collete who I only recognised as the suicidal mother from About a Boy. Collette plays a similarly tragic female character with the exception of that fiery streak from her previous role. I found myself getting annoyed by Pam and her disinterest in Duncan, but this only made the finale even more touching. I felt myself forgiving her in the end.
There are some great supporting characters including Alison Janney as the boozey neighbour, she brings a lot of the laughs. Plus her teenage daughter played by AnnaSophia Robb who reminded me of a mini Hayden Panettiere – really enjoyed her character and hope to see her in more films! Maya Rudolf from Bridesmaids is in there as Rockwell’s love interest and Jim Rash of Community fame has some hilarious lines. Rob Corddry was a little disappointing in his role as he usually gets a few big laughs, really his character could have been played by anybody. Plus a few more faces that really bring the story to life but I won’t go into too much detail!
The star of the show though… nope not Liam James playing Duncan, but Sam Rockwell as the water park manager. His delivery is flawless, his wit is lightening fast and he pretty much had me laughing out loud when ever he was on screen – with the exception of the emotional moments with Duncan, which never felt cheesy or contrived. Rockwell stole the show and I would urge you to see it based on his performance alone. James is pretty fantastic as Duncan to give him credit. You can physically see the change in him as the film progresses and looking at his poor sad face evokes ‘Awww’ out of the audience on cue. I really believed in him and his friendship with Rockwell and the water park crew.
SO not a lot happens story wise, but this doesn’t stop The Way Way Back from being a great piece of cinema. It takes a while to get into at the beginning (I looked at my watch for a little until Rockwell hits the screen properly). But you’ll fall for the characters and at the very least Rockwell will get a giggle out of you. I felt so happy I almost shed a tear when the credits rolled, and that shows how invested I actually got in this very simple story and its authentic characters.
My POV – it isn’t a big blockbuster so cinema screen viewing isn’t essential. But I would urge you to see The Way Way Back when you get a chance, it’s just lovely.