“You’ve got to go your own way, and you, my friend, are going your own way”.
Is it just me or did we have so many coming-of-age films this year? Similar to the likes of Mud, The Kings of Summers, and The Spectacular Now, The Way Way Back told another bildungsroman story of a young adult boy. This film was written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash who have won the academy awards for adapting The Descendants along with Alexander Payne.
This debut feature of the duo, was inspired by Rash’s own scarring experience with his step father that become a foundation of the opening scene. On the way to a their vacation house for a summer holliday, 14 years-old Duncan (Liam James) got asked by his mom’s boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell) to quantify himself in the scale of 1 to 10. When young Duncan said six, Trent corrected him saying he was only a three. Ouch. From this point on we saw Duncan as the quiet young man who was a victim of the emotional abuse from Trent and her daughter. His mother (Toni Collette) only give him a sympathetic look once in a while, already overwhelmed by the fragile relationship of her and Trent. Duncan decided to find his own solace. On a pink, tasseled bicycle he met a man who work at a nearby waterpark, Owen (Sam Rockwell), and the two connect over the summer.
That could get really creepy fast isn’t it? A child prey and a perv molester. But this is not that kind of film, of course. Liam found a semblance of connection with Owen. Eventhough Liam did not get Owen jokes, Liam felt he found the father figure in Owen, or at least maybe an older male, that he could connect with. I really love how the film show the connection between him and Owen and also the choice of the type of journey that Duncan went through that summer. No, he did not transformed much, he is still that awkward, gawky kid that came at the beginning of Summer. But he felt that it is okay to be him, awkward and quiet. Now he know he had that guts and self-confidence within him. Something that doesn’t need to be paraded around on display 24/7 or something to use other people feel bad about themselves.
Relatively newcomer Liam James is surrounded by an ensemble of well known actors cum comedian like Allison Janney, Steve Carrel, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, and Maya Rudolph. (I personally know James from his recurring role as young Shawn in USA Network series Psych). But there are some unnecessary things that made the film feel a little bit bloated for me. Like his relationship with the neighbor (AnnaSophia Robb) which amount to almost nothing. This debut of Rash and Faxon is not terribly original, but it was not terrible either. There’s a lot to like from The Way, Way Back, and overall it was still a good journey, though.
THE WAY, WAY BACK (2013)
GENRE Coming of Age, Drama, Comedy
DIRECTOR Nat Faxon, Jim Rash | PRODUCER Tom Rice, Kevin J. Walsh | WRITER Nat Faxon, Jim Rash | MUSIC Rob Simonsen | CINEMATOGRAPHER John Bailey | EDITOR Tatiana S. Riegel | STUDIO OddLot Entertainment | DISTRIBUTOR Fox Searchlight Pictures | COUNTRY United States | RATING R for language and some teen drinking | RUNNING TIME 94 minute | RELEASE January 21, 2013 (Sundance), July 5, 2013 (US, Limited)
STARRING Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon
DID YOU KNOW? The original title for the script was ‘The Way Back’ but later changed with the extra ‘Way’ to avoid confusion with 2010 movie The Way Back. The title itself refers to the ‘way back seat’ the hidden seat located at the cargo section of a station wagon, the one where Duncan is sitting during the opening scene of the movie.