Billed as this year’s Little Miss Sunshine, The Way Way Back is a funny and charming coming-of-age story.
Duncan (Liam James) is a shy, awkward 14-year-old who is forced to go on summer vacation with his divorced mother Pam (Toni Collete) at her douchey boyfriend’s beach house.
While the adults settle into a routine of getting drunk and frisky, Duncan must look after himself.
He’s also constantly berated by Pam’s boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell—trying very hard to be unlikeable but never really pulling off the alpha male act), who at the start of the film says that he sees Duncan as a ‘three out of ten’.
Duncan finds refuge at a local water park where he meets the owner and lifelong slacker Owen (Sam Rockwell) who gives him a job.
The park’s other employees soon become a family of sorts to Duncan as they embrace him when he doesn’t feel wanted.
Directed and written by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash—who also star in the film—the script is filled with warm and funny moments. Although the themes and outcomes are predictable, they are still satisfying.
Rockwell dominates the film, delivering his lines with quick-wit and charisma. Australia’s own Toni Collette gives a dependable and consistent effort; but it is Rockwell’s interactions with Duncan that make the film most enjoyable.
by Isabella Pittaway