Title: The Way Way Back
Genre: Comedy, Drama
Music: Rob Simonsen
Cinematography: John Bailey
Director debut from Oscar-winning writer-duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (THE DESCENDANTS 2011), a diffident but sensitive 14-year-old boy Duncan (James) unwillingly spends the summer vacation with his mother Pam (Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Carell) in a beach house where he cannot fit in and is constantly under strains with the domineering Trent, coincidentally he forms a bond with Owen (Rockwell), a happy-go-lucky clerk in the local water land “Water Whizz”, after clandestinely takes a part-time job there, Duncan experiences the time of his life and the dreary summer does’t seem to be so unbearable.
Opens with Steve Carell drives a revamped station wagon, Collette is asleep in the passenger’s seat, James sits in the way back seat facing backward, plus we foreknow a blue-chip ensemble with Rockwell, Janney, Peet, Rudolph and Robb, is it another deletable family confection like LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE (2006)? The very first conversation between Trent and Duncan shatters this speculation, Duncan has a rough road in this summer retreat, soon it turns out his presumable step-father is not only a pathological doctrinaire, but a two-timing sleaze-bag. The discordance also arises between Duncan and Pam, a typical miscommunication between a mother and her teenage son, Pam is an escapist seeks for protection under the roof of a marriage and is willingly to blindly ignore any snags on her way, but Duncan is a disgruntled son never understand why she cannot find someone better.
The novice Liam James utterly suits the wallflower sort, his self-emancipation route pans out nicely and he balances a fine line between sympathy and ebullience.
Supporting players galore, Duncan gets closer with Susanna (Robb), the next-door girl whose mother Betty (Janney) is a vexing garrulous boozehound, the amiable attachment between Duncan and Susanna is handled with care, realistic and never go overboard. Amanda Peet is perpetually underused as the third wheel old flame and a well-tanned Steve Carell assumes the villain role with dead seriousness with Zoe Levin as his haughty daughter, a bad exemplar of the ugly facet of our young generation. Collette accomplishes the duck soup with tangible nuances as a mother stuck in a morass.
But the most enthralling and funny part of the film is certainly located in Water Whizz, Rockwell is at the top his game with almost ad lib ambidexterity of spontaneity and sincerity, it is not so often to watch him engage in an otherwise mono-layer character, he is so ready for more awards recognition. Rash and Naxon also participate in the film and generate laughters as two buffoonish co-workers.
The film comes to the end as nothing ever happened, the hurtful truth, the unpleasant kerfuffle, Duncan has found his happy place but has to move on, however the positive message spreads from the very last scene renders viewers a firm conviction, life sucks, nevertheless, we can progress, even with baby steps.