Written by Guillermo Troncoso.
Ah, the awkward teenager. Cinema’s beloved subject matter has provided audiences with countless young, troubled protagonists that remind us all of a time that was full of confusion and heartbreak. The Way, Way Back’s graceless adolescent is Duncan, who is being forced to join his mother and her overbearing boyfriend on a summer retreat. Not only that, this new boyfriend has an older teenage daughter who wants absolutely nothing to do with him. To be young again, right? Thankfully, Duncan finds solace in Owen, a relaxed, happy-go-lucky manager of a nearby water park.
These type of films rely heavily on the cast and the performances here are quite good. As Duncan, Liam James is quite likeable and sweet – even if he slightly over-does the character’s early awkwardness. It’s a good performance that pulls us into the story, but it’s the performances of the adults that really bring this film home. As his mother, Toni Collette is fantastic. She perfectly conveys the plight of a mother caught between her new man and her angst-ridden son. As the “new man”, Steve Carrell is really quite good. Don’t expect your usual Carrell performance here, he isn’t a nice guy at all. Apart from these great performances, it’s Sam Rockwell who steals the show. He fully embraces the character of Owen and provides most of the film’s laughs. He’s very funny, without making it feel forced or self-aware.
Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (he plays Dean Pelton in TV’s Community), the Oscar winning writers behind The Descendants, bring us a coming-of-age story that should connect well with audiences. The dialogue is mostly mature and witty, and their screenplay flows nicely. Unfortunately, as much I wanted to, I didn’t believe the film’s first quarter. It all just feels a little bit too forced. Then again, maybe that’s how it looks like through the eyes of a teenager. Maybe I’ve forgotten already.
It’s a simple story done well. The humour isn’t laugh-out-loud funny, but you will have a few decent chuckles. This isn’t up to par with Faxon and Rash’s The Descendants, but it’s a feel-good film that has it’s heart in the right place.
THE REEL SCORE: 7/10