The Way, Way Back
Remember that summer vacation? And I don’t mean that weeklong trip to Disney World that your parents took you on. It’s something most of us had when we were young. I’m referring to that relaxing period of summer break from the end of school (for me it was usually in the beginning of June) to the start of the next level of classes (usually mid August). For us kids, this meant Heaven. No homework. No assigned reading. And best of all, total freedom…right? Well I guess that depended on the kids. Maybe that had all of summer to goof off. They could have been sent to summer camp. Or in the case of most, being dragged to whatever their parents were doing.
As an adult, I now have more appreciation for days off. We don’t get weeks and weeks of paid vacation (except for every country outside the USA), so even just one day to hang out with our friends is exciting. But think about that one kid or two that may have joined, but remains quiet. I feel sorry for those kids, because I know that they’re going to be board for the rest of the day. They didn’t have anything better to do, so they join the parent and deal with it. One kids tries to find some fun out of it in the new indie comedy, The Way, Way Back.
Fourteen-year-old Duncan is with his mother, Pam (played by Toni Collette) as they have planned to spend the summer at the beach house of her boyfriend, Trent (played by Steve Carell). Though Trent means well, he doesn’t seem to be connecting to Duncan, even calling him a three out of a ten. If that wasn’t insulting enough, Duncan is very isolated from Trent’s daughter Steph, and is forced to hang with the adults, because…what else is he gonna do?
Like any teenager, he grows sick of having to listen to the stories of the adults. He starts heading into town to see if there’s anything at all that’s better then his mom’s boyfriend. As he getting lunch at a pizza place, he runs into some employees from a local water park called Water Wizz. One of those is the owner Owen (played by Sam Rockwell). He takes a liking to Duncan and takes him under his wing. This leads to Duncan getting a job at Water Wizz. Back at home, Pam continues to hang with the adults, and this becomes, as one teen puts it, “Spring Break for adults”. Duncan continues his escapades at the water park, also meeting the parks manager, Caitlyn (played by Maya Rudolph) and begins to hang with the next door’s neighbor daughter, Susanna (played by AnnaSophia Robb).
The Way, Way Back could have easily been a bad movie from either being too goofy or too depressing. Luckily, that is not the case here. Somehow, writer/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash found the right balance between awkward humor and emotional drama.
What’s interesting is that this movie chose to cast A-list actors for the supporting parts and an unknown for Duncan. What I like about this kid is that I cannot put him into a clique or category of teenager. He’s not a genus. He’s not an idiot. We know very little about this kid except that he has few friends at home. And you know what? That’s a real teenager. I remember having to sit through a lot of adult dinners, even though I was board out of my mind. All I wanted was to find an adult I can connect with. Speaking of that, Sam Rockwell has given a pretty good performance as a lazy, yet likable waterpark owner. Though it may be a little early, I would hope he’s considered for a Best Supporting actor nomination next year. And the other supporters like Steve Carell, Toni Collette and Maya Rudolph, they do pretty good in their positions. Nothing that makes them amazing, but their good nonetheless. My only argument is that I wished the movie had crafted a less predictable ending. I know it was a realistic ending, but I think most people saw it coming. At least I can enjoy most of the movie.
I’ll give this four and a half waterpark tubes out of five. This is a nice coming of age movie. The Way, Way Back makes for a good movie about summer vacation, and possibly, the best one about working at a water park.