Coming of age stories are nothing new, and few can do it better than my favourite movie ever Stand By Me. Can this new film win me over?
14 year old Duncan (Liam James) is on an uncomfortable holiday with his mum Pam(Toni Collette), her obnoxious boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Awkward and shy Duncan expects the holiday from hell, but he finds unexpected friendship from a local waterpark manager Owen (Sam Rockwell). Slowly Duncan grows in confidence, but that doesn’t mean all his problems go away.
Written and directed by Jim Rash (Dean Pelton from Community) and Nat Fraxon-who also won the Oscar for their screenplay The Desendants, The Way Way Back is a fun, often bittersweet movie full of a lot of heart. Newcomer Liam James is great as Duncan, the quiet teenager who learns to have fun and stand up for himself. Sam Rockwell is even better as Owen, the one adult who notices Liam and tries to help him without being patronsing or insulting him. What could have been a bit of a creepy friendship is actually quite sweet, and their goodbye at the end of summer really pulls at the heart stings and made me quite emotional.
It was good to see Steve Carell playing against type as a character whose a complete jackass. I kept expecting us to see a nicer, softer side to Trent, but no, you realise he’s just a tool. It made me really angry the way he spoke to Duncan and how he treated Pam. Toni Collette also deserves praise as her role is tricky. Its frustrating at times how she seems to let Trent get away with his behaviour, but then she also manages to show her vunerable, lonely side and you can see why she stays with Trent despite how he acts.
The scenes at the water park are great fun, with great small roles for Maya Ruldolph and Jim Rash among others. Its at this place Duncan starts becoming the man he wants to be, and his intereaction with the people there enable his confidence to talk to girl-next-door Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), a subplot that manages to be sweet and cringeworth at the same time.
Rating 4/5-funny, and bittersweet at times The Way Way Back is a comedy with heart