Directed by: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Written by: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Starring: Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Amanda Peet, Rob Corddry, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph and Liam James.
The Oscar-winning duo that brought us The Descendants make their directorial debut with The Way, Way Back a coming-of-age story set in a summer beach town about a 14 year old boy’s quest to build confidence and find a sense of belonging and trust. The movie is funny, sweet and brimming with nostalgia. As A.O. Scott of The New York Times wrote: “Its situations and feelings seem drawn more from available, sentimental ideas about adolescence than from the perceptions of any particular adolescent,” which, while true, doesn’t account for the endearing performances that give the movie a sense of uniqueness.
What I liked: Strong direction and heartfelt performances are what make this film work. Each character, no matter their screen time, offers a sense of depth that carries the emotion of the film, starting with Liam James whose awkward and introverted performance is spot on and a testament to the 17 year old’s acting chops. Seasoned vets, Alison Janney and Sam Rockwell provide all the rich humour of the film from their first seconds on screen. In fact, Janney’s introduction is one of the funniest and most effective I’ve seen in a while, not to mention her off-colour relationship with her son; and Rockwell, flighty and flawed, provides the film’s best dialogue. Maya Rudolf, Steve Carrell, Amanda Peet and Toni Collette round out a stellar cast that works in harmony, even when they are at odds with each other.
What I didn’t like: This movie has been on my watch list since it was released this past summer. Happily, the movie didn’t disappoint despite a routine premise and narrative that has been done many times before. The good news is that the writing is strong enough to make an oft-told framework successful and entertaining despite a predictable finish.
My rating: I want Allison Janney to be my neighbour and Sam Rockwell to be my boss.