The Way Way Back (2013)

wayyStarring: Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Annasophia Robb, Zoe Levin

Directed by: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

PG-13. 103 mins

A warm and wonderful throwback for all ages. This is the story of 14-year-old Duncan’s (Liam James) summer vacation with his mother, Pam (Toni Collette) and her sleazy boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell). Introverted and troubled by his mother’s new relationship, Duncan searches the small cottage town for a friend. After stumbling upon the Water Wizz water park, Duncan quickly becomes friends with the manager, Owen (Sam Rockwell), and a slew of colourful characters. Slowly, Duncan emerges from his shell and learns some tough lessons during a summer full of love, laughter, and heartache. The winning screenplay and direction are courtesy of Faxon and Rash, the ex-Groundlings comedians who recently won Oscars for their work in The Descendants. Some may find it safe and predictable, but the film offers some much-needed relief from the overbearing summer blockbusters that rarely make us feel much of anything, let alone nostalgia. The characters are memorable (especially Janney and Rockwell) and the heartfelt observations about growing up are carefully hidden within an almost seamless blend of comedy and drama. It contains all the usual trappings found in a coming-of-age story and it’s easy to compare it to 2009’s Adventureland, but this film succeeds at conveying what so many others have failed to do.. These angst-ridden tales of self-discovery are often set in the summertime – why? Because summer is the time of year when there is a sense of freedom to try new things, meet new people and make mistakes for just a few moments until the leaves change and it’s time to return back to the lives we left behind for just a few short months. The Way Way Back contains just enough sadness amongst the sweetness to make the summer appear as it truly is: bittersweet – * * * 1/2

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