The Way, Way Back

Starring Steve Carell, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon and more
Directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon
In UK cinemas August 28th, 2013

The Way, Way Back is written and directed by the writing team who brought you that awful George Clooney / Alexander Payne film The Descendants – Jim Rash who is best known as Dean Pelton on Community, and Nat Faxon who is not known for anything other than co-writing The Descendants.

TWWB is based on Rash’s life as a teenager and stars newcomer Liam James in the protagonist role of Duncan, Toni Collette as his mother Pam, Steve Carell as her rather obnoxious boyfriend Trent, Allison Janney as wacky neighbour Betty and Sam Rockwell as zany waterpark owner Owen. The film takes place in Trent’s summer home where he tries to have a nice family vacation in spite of blatantly not being a huge fan of Duncan’s.  Duncan feels isolated and befriends Owen who offers Duncan a job at the waterpark where he eventually comes into his own.  A very cliched film with nothing new or interesting to say.

The performances were also rather underwhelming in this film.  Toni Collette and Maya Rudolph were very much underused and miscast.  Sam Rockwell was just playing Sam Rockwell as per usual… normally a good thing, but not this time.  Steve Carell was excellent playing against type as a total dickhead of a man and Allison Janney was wonderful as the hyperactive neighbour.  But each of the performances are caricatures rather than characters, nothing is grounded in a solid and likeable reality.

This film was the darling of Sundance Film Festival in January, and I can see how it would shine in an indie film festival where the mood is right and some of the competition maybe not as strong.  In the real world, this film is truly a predictable and lacklustre production.  It is an indie film by numbers with no redeeming features outside of Carell and Janney.  Outside of the Sundance bubble, this film has no legs.

If you want an excellent indie film about coming-of-age boys in the summertime, The Way, Way Back is not it – try Jordan Vogt-Roberts’ The Kings of Summer instead.

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