Hot off their Oscar win for ‘The Descendants‘, screenwriters Jim Rash and Nat Faxon hop into the director’s chair for the first time with the incredible summer flick ‘The Way, Way Back’. The comedy duo pulls triple duty on this film, serving as directors, writers and actors. That’s no easy feat, but they pull it off with grace, fun and great comedy. This little movie with an all-star cast is easily in my Top 5 of the year so far.
If you were born in the ’70s or ’80s, your parents probably owned a station wagon at some point. The movie’s title, ‘The Way, Way Back’, refers to the far back, rear-facing bench seat that, as kids, we fought over to ride in. My dad had a silver and brown wagon, and no matter if we drove two minutes away or two hours away, I always wanted to sit in the Way, Way Back. This little slice of life brings back great nostalgic memories.
‘The Way, Way Back’ reminds me a lot of movies like ‘Adventureland‘ and ‘Little Miss Sunshine‘. The film takes place mostly at a water park in a small beach community during the middle of summer. We follow a young teen named Duncan (Liam James), who sets out to find himself and gain confidence to talk with girls and become his own person. On a summer-long trip to their beach house, Duncan gets stuck with his mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), who has his own teen daughter named Steph (Zoe Levin). Trent constantly picks on Duncan for no apparent reason. Steph seems to take after her father and torments Duncan as well.
Duncan spends a lot of time at a water park called Water Wizz, which is owned by a fun guy named Owen (Sam Rockwell). Owen sees something in Duncan and decides to make his life better by offering him a job at the water park. Duncan happily accepts, though he doesn’t tell anybody at home about it.
While at the job, Owen teaches Duncan how to gain confidence by way of long, comedic monologues and inappropriate jokes at the expense of others. Owen’s jokes seem to go over everyone else’s heads, as his clientele are two decades younger than he is. Owen also shows Duncan how to talk to women, such as Duncan’s crush Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), who lives in the area year-round with her over-the-top gossipy mom Betty (Allison Janney).
This is one of the better of coming-of-age films in a long time and I can’t wait to spend time with these characters again. The writing is flawless. Nothing is ever out-of-place in this film, and the pacing is spot-on. The movie has an even blend of gut-busting comedy and dramatic situations that will pull you closer and closer towards these characters. It’s nice to see Steve Carell drop his usual nice guy shtick and play a real slimeball here. He’s great in this role, even if you wind up hating the character.
Rockwell shines here and deserves an award for this performance. Meanwhile, Janney is a force of comedy to be reckoned with and had me in stitches every time she was on-screen. The movie also features a few great cameos from Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet and Maya Rudolph.
Rash and Faxon hit a home run with this little film that won’t soon be forgotten. See this movie as soon as possible.