Monday 5 August 2013

Film Review: The Way, Way Back

Liam James and AnnaSophia Robb in The Way, Way Back

The Way, Way Back is the funny and poignant coming-of-age story of 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) and how one summer spent by the sea changed his life. A simple story that is effectively told and beautifully shot, The Way, Way Back will easily win you over with buckets full of charm, laughs and tears.

Directed by Nat Faxon (The Descendants) and Jim Rash (NBC's Community), The Way Way Back is a wonderful little film that easily won me over with it's gorgeous, idyllic setting, witty script and well-acted characters. You've seen it all before (it's a run-of-the-mill coming-of-age tale) but that doesn't stop Faxon and Rash crafting one of the most charming indie films this year.

First off, the lead character of Duncan (played by Liam James) is well-written and believable - I also found that his arc from awkward recluse to someone infinitely more confident and adult was nicely paced and well-crafted. James is also a good actor, able to balance the humour and the emotion aspects of the film well. Toni Collette plays Pam, Duncan's mother. She doesn't really make much of an impression until late on which was a shame.

A poster for The Way, Way Back
Steve Carell plays Trent, Pam's new boyfriend and Duncan's soon-to-be stepfather. I thought Carell played the antagonist really well - typically cast as the goofy but loveable lead (Get Smart, The 40-Year Old Virgin, The Incredible Burt Wonderstone, Despicable Me), Carell carried off the other side of the coin well and didn't overact it.

Meanwhile, the real star of the show is Sam Rockwell as Duncan's lackadaisical and childish 'father-figure' Owen. He practically steals every scene he's in with his goofy antics and runaway stories that are quite obviously bullshit. He gets 80% of the laughs and Rockwell looks as though he is having the time of his life playing the role. I'd go as far as to say his character makes this film worth the entrance fee alone.

AnnaSophia Robb is also good as Duncan's love-interest Susanna. I would've liked to have seen her get more screen time and seen her relationship with Duncan develop more but that's only a slight quibble - together, the two of them make a great duo.

One complaint I would have is that there is an over-abundance of supporting characters that kind of clutter the plot - the bare bones of it are Duncan, his mother Pam, her boyfriend Trent and his adoptive role model Owen and Duncan's love interest Susanna. Everyone else is a supporting character and I counted in excess of 15. That's not to say they are all unnecessary (a lot of them add a substantial amount of the humour), I just felt the script could have been trimmed back and stuck to the core narrative of Duncan and his two conflicting lives.

On the whole, I had a great time watching The Way, Way Back. The plot is as familiar as bread and butter but when a film makes you laugh this much and is also well produced and acted across the board, you'll find it hard to complain. Make sure you find the time to see this one.

I give The Way, Way Back: 8/10 

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