The Way, Way Back
4.5/5 MUST must see SEE
dir-scr Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
prd Tom Rice, Kevin J Walsh
with Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Zoe Levin, Jim Rash, Nat Faxon
release US 5.Jul.13, UK 28.Aug.13
13/US Fox 1h43
The Way, Way Back
Summer romance: James and Robb

carell collette rockwell
R E V I E W    B Y    R I C H    C L I N E
The Way, Way Back As with The Descendents, Faxon and Rash use sharply observant dialog to take a gently comical look at the connections between people. This provides a skilled cast with plenty of material to work with, and they develop rounded characters we can really identify with.

At 14, Duncan (James) is not very thrilled about spending the summer at the beach house belonging to Trent (Carell), the hyper-critical new boyfriend of his mother Pam (Collette). Once there, they meet gossipy neighbour Betty (Janney), who has a season of parties planned for them. And her daughter Susanna (Robb) looks just about as miserable as Duncan does. While trying to escape, Duncan stumbles on a water park, and the childish manager Owen (Rockwell) takes him under his wing. Away from the dismissive Trent, Duncan starts to discover a bit of self-confidence.

This story cleverly depicts how a lack of respect cripples us, while even a tiny bit of it can help us blossom. Each character is at a crisis point, played for everyday honesty rather than major melodrama, which gives the comedy a shot of subtle intensity. Betty is the show-stealer, and Janney shines as a woman who uses boisterous humour to draw a crowd. And Stockwell's Owen entertains us with his party-boy attitude. By contrast, Carell goes against type as nasty control-freak Trent, while Collette beautifully layers the repressive Pam.

Meanwhile, Duncan's journey is refreshingly free of the usual coming-of-age cliches. Even when one emerges (like a first kiss), it doesn't go as expected. With such all-star support, James gives an impressively detailed performance: Duncan is a sullen bundle of nerves, and we vividly feel the awkwardness of every situation. And Faxon and Rash write and direct each scene with clever touches that give unexpected insight into each of the varied relationships.

This first-rate writing, direction and acting draws us deep into the story, so that even the comical side characters (such as Rash's hilarious long-time water park employee) have moments of insight. At times we wish the comedy had a sharper edge: the film is resolutely warm and low-key. But it's refreshing to see a film in which the kids actually deal with their issues like kids. And the adults around them stay in the background, messing things up as usual.

cert 12 themes, language 23.Ju.13

R E A D E R   R E V I E W S
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© 2013 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall