The Way Way Back – this years summer feel good movie. Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, this film just about does the job. It makes you feel sad at times, it makes you laugh at times, and it fills you with hope at times. All in all, it is fits your classic ‘feel good’ movie.
I read on another review of this, that this film is the summer movie you will forget … now that I am not so sure about. The reason I am not so sure about that, is because the standard of acting in this film is very good. A nod also has to be given to the writing and directing as the characters hold strong depth and (personally I felt) the audience can resonate with them, and see them as believable.
So, the story tells of 14 year old Duncan (Liam James), whose mom (Toni Collette)has taken up with new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), who is of course, an asshole. No prizes for anyone who saw that one coming. Basically the story revolves around a trip to Trent’s summer house, where Duncan feels the outcast, but grows to feel comfortable in himself and find a place to belong.
Now, in case there was any doubt (of which there was none) that Carrell’s character would be an asshole, the film takes no time at all just to make sure we are all on the same page, with the first lines of the film being his character telling 14 year old Duncan that he’s a 3 out of 10. To be honest, going into the film, I wasn’t sure I would be able to see Steve Carell be an asshole, he has always played the loveable, goofy idiot … and he does it so well. However, I was pleasantly surprised that Carrell pulled this role off to a tee and was completely believable as a lying, deceitful, and plain not nice, scum bag.
This film has a very independent feel to it, despite having a strong and well known cast, including Maya Rudolph, Steve Carell, Rob Coddry, Amanda Peet (who i appreciated being cast as a bit of eye candy for me!), Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell. To be fair, everyone in the film played their parts well, but Sam Rockwell absolutely stole the show, being the star in every scene he was in , playing the role of Owen the manager of the Water Wizz fun park and the much needed friend for Duncan; he delivers this fantastically. If you were on the fence about seeing this film, it is worth going just for Rockwell. Likewise Allison Janney gives a phenomenal performance, in a film that has it’s share of comedy but not laugh a minute, every time Janney graced the screen I was in stitches – the back and forth between her and her son Peter (River Alexander) is priceless.
This film, in the classic feel good genre, does give you a lump in your throat at times, even though you can see what is coming from a mile away. However, when you go into a film like this, you know exactly what you are paying for – so you can hardly complain. Although, that said, at times you might find yourself longing for a little something to shake it up a bit, but unfortunately is not forthcoming.
There are threads in this film that are presented, but aren’t fully explored – and for the most parts these are character relationships, for example the relationship between Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell’s characters is brought up multiple times, but is failed to be closer examined, as is the same with the relationship between Duncan and Janney’s daughter Susanna – the inevitable love interest, to tick another box on the feel good checklist. However, running at 1hour and 45minutes, my guess is that Rash and Faxon are being mindful of not losing the audience by prolonging the picture, and this was probably a fair sacrifice to make.
I did enjoy this movie, and I think others will too – if you resign yourself to knowing what you are paying for before you go in. Don’t get me wrong – that isn’t a slight on this film, there is only so much you can do with a feel good flick, and I think Rash and Faxon actually did a good job with this – even putting in very funny cameo appearance performances themselves.
Now, I was always going to see this film, because I am huge Steve Carell fan, and wanted to see him tackle a slightly different role, and I am also a big fan of Jim Rash, mainly from his role on Community, and was interested in how he would do as a writer and director, despite this not being his first film – he and Faxon also co-wrote and directed The Descendants starring George Clooney, (which won an Oscar, but I haven’t seen that, so cannot comment.). And to be honest, I thought the film was written and directed very well.
A classic feel good film and a good effort from all involved – worth a watch