Starring: Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Anna Sophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Amanda Peet, Alison Janney (Rated M – 103 min).
The challenge after watching this charming movie is getting up to leave the cinema. If you are like me, you will be left wanting more as the end credits roll. An early contender for movie of the year right alongside Behind the Candelabra, The Way Way Back is more than a simple coming of age story with a dramatic impact – it is a look at juvenile uncertainty from all angles.
An impressive Liam James plays Duncan. At fourteen, he has trouble fitting in around others and within the demands of society. Following her divorce, his mother Pam (Toni Collette – again in a scorching performance, superior in a direct manner) is taking tentative steps back into romance. Her new boyfriend, the overbearing Trent (Steve Carell – in a rare unpleasant role) is happy to go on summer vacation to his beach house with Pam, Duncan and his own daughter Steph. Insensitive of anybody but himself, Trent is a vile thoughtless man who only gets worse the further the film goes.
Finding salvation from the adult world of drinking and midlife crisis semantics, Duncan starts a friendship with the girl next door to the holiday house and discovers the local water fun park. Manager Owen is a sarcastic slacker and loose figure of authority preferring his own brazen way of enforcing the rules. Taking a shine to Duncan and offering him a summer job, this enlightens his outlook of life while growing in maturity.
Crowd pleasing humour is a winner but make no mistake, emotional transitions have a serious edge. Sam Rockwell impressed me early in his career in the underrated ‘Lawn Dogs’, then ‘The Green Mile’. With most of the best lines, he almost steals the film as Owen. The water park is the perfect location to exploit his good natured antics. His world weary philosophies sound preposterous, but his intentions to help Duncan are of great assistance.
The adults in this movie are proven to be immature with drinking games and disregard of age limitations. The youth have no choice but take control most of the time. Carell is a fury of disdain, extremely unlikable. Written by the pair responsible for the Oscar nominated screenplay ‘The Decendents’, they focus on the details, unique observations or fascinating quirks to each character. A likely future award nominee itself, I cannot recommend this movie enough, it is engaging, charismatic and above all, entertaining.
Shane A. Bassett