Review: The Way, Way Back (2013, Nat Faxon & Jim Rash)


Director: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
Cast: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Nat Faxon
Screenplay: Nat Faxon & Jim Rash

“The Way, Way Back” boasts nothing but being the little comedy that could of 2013. The sentiments that the film paints out does not try too hard to be something that it is not. Yes, it’s a coming of age tale, but done in great style. For the first feature of co-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, “The Way, Way Back” is an achievement that warms the heart, entertains the soul and keeps one interested in the story of the young Duncan (newcomer Liam James) for the entire 103 minute runtime.

With an array of numerous characters, plainly there for comedy affect and then some, the film boasts an ensemble cast of comedy stars that take on their small roles with great dignity and fine-tuned performances. The film focuses mainly on Duncan (James), a fourteen-year-old “3” who must try and live out the summer at his mom’s (Toni Collette) new boyfriends (Steven Carrell) Hampton beach house. Depressed and alone, Duncan finds himself making unusual friendships with the staff of the Water Wizz water park, learning life lessons from them. He finds an even warmer father figure in the park’s manager, played by Sam Rockwell.

Without a doubt, Sam Rockwell is best in show. Supporting the fine performance done by our lead Liam James, Rockwell tries something different from his bad boy (and often crazy, he still is here though) persona. He cleverly plays comedy with a heart, in a small but new kind of performance for his kind of actor. The charm overflows, most especially when put in a scene with comedy vet Maya Rudolph, who plays his unrequited love interest in the narrative. Collette gives another fine, supporting-mother turn, but that’s no surprise because she can do this in her sleep.

The rest of the film’s wonder lies in its smart screenplay, in which Nat Faxon and Jim Rash surprise. Their screenplay is constructed in such a way that you are surprised by the sound of your laughter. And that’s the best kind of laughter. A humble giggle here and there, and a true roar when something gets extremely funny. The good thing is, the two don’t try too hard to conceive something out of the ordinary. They paint from real life humour that true-to-form eccentrics may have in their back pockets. That’s why it worked so well. Their comedy was relatable. I found myself laughing by myself, and not ashamed of it!

“The Way, Way Back” deserves more traction in the field of the cinema’s biggest surprises this year. It’s well constructed, and just classy fun. One needs a refreshing film like this once in awhile. A film that won’t let you think too much, but won’t give you cringe worthy moments to ruin your mood. It’s just fun filmmaking with lots of heart. A good effort.

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