Dave’s 3-Word Review:
Not too shabby.
Whenever I see Fox Searchlight Pictures, I never truly know what to expect. Independent movies are incredibly special, but they can leave a nasty backfire at the same time. It is touch and go, so sometimes they rely on mainstream actors to reel in a paying audience. That’s where I come in. As some of you already know, I’ll watch anything Steve Carell is in, and for the most part, that’s all I really knew about this flick going in…well…him and Sam Rockwell. These two guys are brilliant, so I couldn’t miss anything they are in. I’m still having difficulty putting to words what The Way, Way Back is even about, but whatever it is, it is good.
You have a 14 year old by the name of Duncan (Liam James). Duncan is, for a lack of terms, an introvert. He’s keeps to himself mostly with his soft, almost robot-spoken ways. He just has limited resources when it comes to expressing himself and dealing with bullies. You see, his mother’s boyfriend (Steve Carell) is a jerk. Not the kind you typically see in Hollywood, but the realistic kind. So when he and his family are taken to the boyfriend’s beach house, Duncan leaves every day and gets a job at a water park where he meets sharply-spoken Owen (Sam Rockwell) who totally accepts Duncan for who he is. It is at the water park where he learns courage and confidence while allowing him to express his emotions and have fun, as any kid should have the right to have.
Steve Carell is one of my favorite actors, and not because of his diverse, wide-ranged ability to perform. I love him because his personality is always one I seem to be able to connect with. Sure, he plays similar roles all the time, but maybe that is something I like to see from him. That being said, this was a very different role for Carell, and I was legitimately impressed. He plays a great jerk, one that probably brings back memories for a lot of us in regards to bullies, even. I’ve never thought about him in that light before, but he proves that he has the ability to pull it off, so good for him.
This film is of course a coming-of-age flick, which is a theme in film that I don’t really like…often. There is no goal set by anyone, it’s just a follow the main character as he experiences life…type of thing. That’s okay though, in certain cases. I’ve personally seen better coming-of-age tales, but this one wasn’t shabby either.
Liam James may or may not look familiar to you, and that’s because he’s not really a mainstream actor like a lot of the cast is, but if you watch the TV show Psych on USA Network, you may recognize him from his role of young Shawn. So his awkward robotic acting style was geared specifically for this film, which shows me that for such a young age, this tycoon is already fast on track for a promising career. Not many younger actors have a range.
What really pulls you into this film is more along the lines of Duncan’s transformation from a quiet, depressed kid feeling pinned between a rock and a hard place and his expression through the water park. It’s the whole… “Island of Misfit Toys” idea. A place of full acceptance and non-judmental friends. That and his chemistry with Owen and the rest of the park staff is unparalleled. Without that element, the film wouldn’t be special at all.
The Way, Way Back is a remarkable tale about a boy capturing back his courage and confidence from an otherwise unfortunate situation. It is chillingly realistic and believable, while still maintaining a level of hope and heartwarming moments.