The Way, Way Back (aka The Way Way Back) review by George Hooper - Cinema Paradiso
I’m a firm believer that you can hardly ever go wrong with a good coming of age story and The Way, Way Back both reinforces my position and weakens it at the same time. On the one hand its a solid film with some brilliant comedic timing. On the other hand it takes no risks as it uses every cliched plot contrivance possible in its journey to forced enlightenment.
Telling the story of Duncan (Liam James), a shy, unpopular kid who has been forced to vacation at his mother Pam’s (Toni Collette) new boyfriends house. What Duncan finds when he gets there is adults running wild everywhere he goes, even the rundown water park nearby, a place he finds he might well fit in with this group of unusual adults.
Clever and relevant, The Way Way Back misses plenty of opportunities during its run while still showing the promise and potential of writer director duo Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the minds behind The Descendants, a sombre black comedy with a near perfect script. The two have assembled an impressive cast of misfits and parents from Sam Rockwell’s manchild Owen to Amanda Peet as overly sexed temptress Joan.
The problem is that the story doesn’t feel lived in, it lacks depth. It’s a light hearted summer of supposed fun that never really does much aging, Duncan’s empowerment is slight and unemotional with the series of tired side stories wrapping up in gag inducing fashion instead of coming to their logical conclusion.
While Rockwell is fantastic and the rest of the cast provide laughs aplenty (Allison Janney as a constantly drunk party girl is another highlight) this story never comes to fruition in the ways it really should. Unfortunately for this comedy duo, their story didn’t have all that much story.