The Way, Way Back movie poster
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The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back movie poster

The Way, Way Back Movie Review

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If you thought The Descendants was more depressing than funny, the follow-up by Oscar-winning writers Nat Faxon and Jim Rash may be more to your liking. Funny and equally heartwarming, The Way, Way Back is a coming-of-age story with a great cast and even better delivery. It is also the best movie of 2013 so far.

"Duncan, on a scale from one to ten, what do you think you are?"

"A six."

"I think you're a three."

The Way, Way Back stars Liam James as quiet and awkward teenager Duncan, who has been dragged along to his mother's boyfriend's beach house for the summer. His mother (Toni Collette) is desperate, the boyfriend (Steve Carell) is an asshole and the next door neighbor (Allison Janney) is off her rocker. Seeking escape, he finds employment at the local water park and is befriended by his man-child boss (Sam Rockwell), while the pretty neighbor girl Susanna (AnnaSphia Robb) takes a liking to him.

The Way, Way Back strikes a fine balance between comedy and drama, though unlike The Descendants it leans more heavily on humor and less on people dying from boating accidents. The movie is downright hilarious at times, especially when Sam Rockwell or Allison Janney are on screen, and Faxon and Rash, in their directorial debut, rarely if ever miss a beat.

Despite the constant humor, The Way, Way Back elevates itself with streaks of poignancy, especially when the film focuses on the rocky relationship between Collette and Carell's characters. Both actors deliver strong performances for these pivotal roles. Meanwhile, the sweet, blossoming romance between Duncan and Susanna provides a more innocent contrast to the realities of adult life.

The Way, Way Back is a smart, deftly written film that works on many levels. Consistently funny and superbly acted, with more than a few doses of reality interspersed with the jokes, The Way, Way Back is an early candidate for the year's best picture.

Review by Erik Samdahl unless otherwise indicated.

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