“The Way, Way Back” is a Summer Dramedy packed with Humor, Adolescence, and Heart


Image Source: Fox Searchlight Pictures

It’s summer time and, whether we all may admit it or not, we all want some fun under the sun with good people. With The Way, Way Back, there isn’t any major appeal or originality to it. We’re given simple scenes and simple characters, but, by turning a well-known comedian into a villain and pounding the charming comedy with the poignancy of adolescence, we’re given something that surprisingly touches us within the good humor of a coming-of-age story mixed with heavy family drama.

The story centers on sad-eyed 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) who, as we are introduced to, is seated at the backseat of his mother’s boyfriend’s station wagon en-route to his beach house for the summer. While the film plays its cinematography well by creating distance between Duncan and Trent (Steve Carell) as Duncan has his back to Trent and the only thing we see are Trent’s eyes through the rear-view window of the car, we sense the idea Duncan is headed on a crappy adventure as his mother’s boyfriend constantly bullies him, rating him a “3 out of 10”  and contributes to his feelings of loser-ship, as he would rather be with his divorced father for the summer.

The film plays well on commenting on the ideas of adulthood and broken families as Duncan’s mother, a seemingly nice and frail woman, wants the best for her son and for the family to work out; but, her uncanny fear and tendency to let her boyfriend run over her causes Duncan to become fed up as the story turns into a personal escape for Duncan.


Image Source: Slant Magazine

As Duncan runs off to find his own away from the family, there’s only one who really takes notice of his running away. As he meets the not-so-thrilled “cool” girl named Susanna (Anna Sophia Robb), his neighbor’s daughter whose mom is beach-friends with Trent, she seems to describe the entire place perfectly, saying, “This place sucks, huh,” adding, “It’s like spring break but for adults.”

We don’t know much of the girl and, as her and Duncan’s relationship mainly spawn from them both wanting to escape their homes and through her talking to an unresponsive Duncan, there’s something special that bonds within that silence.

Perhaps what really steals the show is when Duncan finds the “one place he’s happy” when hanging with the bunch at Water Wizz Park. By chance, he meets the witty and utterly random, “too-cool” too-loose Owen (Sam Rockwell), manager of the park. He’s like your ultimate rock star of the film who, aside from his apparent ego, knows the limitations of his actions and has a lot more substance than we’d expect. He, in a way, becomes both that mentor and friend we all have wanted and needed growing up as a young, shy and sometimes awkward kid.


Image Source: Examiner

The Way, Way Back could have easily become a flop with utterly dry humor and boring scenarios, but its tastefulness comes from its honest representation of scared adults, fearful kids, and the fun we sometimes don’t want to admit to having. The beautiful and scary thing is, we all have felt these ways at some point in our lives, at whatever age or time, that this film provides us with a glimmer of hope when being honest to ourselves.

It’s funny, it weighs real issues, and often says much when not saying anything at all. Whatever the case, this movie is such a breath of fresh air in a summer of becoming overly trite, overdone movies. It’s one that can stick, and that’s worth watching.

Check out the trailer and share with me your thoughts!


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