I am beginning to have a great deal of respect for my sister's taste in movies. The last movie she recommended to me was Silver Linings Playbook, a peach of a film that had me enthralled from beginning to end. Last week she called with another recommendation, and again it proved to be a great pick.
Gail's latest cinematic choice was a wonderful coming-of-age story entitled The Way, Way Back. The film revolves around a fourteen-year-old boy, shy and withdrawn, who is dragged off to a beach community for the summer with his divorced mother, her new boyfriend, and the boyfriend's older teen daughter. The boyfriend is, as the lad describes him, "a dick" who constantly finds ways to denigrate and humiliate the youth. As the film opens he tells the kid that he regards him as a "three" on a scale of ten.
The mother stays in the relationship with the overbearing a-hole, even after she discovers that he is cheating on her, because she feels that she and her son "need protection." The boy would like to be living with his father who has remarried to a younger woman and moved across the country, but he knows down deep that his father does not want him.
So it looks like it will be one hell of a rotten summer.
But then the kid, whose name is Duncan, makes friends with a fellow named Owen. Owen works at a rundown water park, and is possibly the owner. He is an adult in body but an adolescent in spirit. Owen gives Duncan a job at the water park, and things begin to get better for the troubled boy.
The Way, Way Back was written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, and both also appeared in the movie as workers at the water park. The duo of Faxon and Rash were exceptional in all three of those capacities.
Steve Carell was the jerk boyfriend, Trent, and played the role to perfection. He exhibited absolutely no redeeming qualities from the first frame of the film to the last - and was so easy to dislike. Toni Collette was the mother who often ignored the obvious needs of her son in order to maintain the safety of her relationship with the new boyfriend. Allison Janney was the drunken summer neighbor, Betty, who provided a good portion of comic relief in the film.
But it was Liam James and Sam Rockwell who were the heart and soul of the movie. James was Duncan, the depressed and rejected youth who was struggling to maintain in a world that offered little in the way of comfort or hope. His world began to brighten when he connected the the neighbor girl who was suffering from a family situation similar to his own. Then when he met Owen and got a job at the water park, his life suddenly began to blossom.
Sam Rockwell, who in my opinion has always been seriously underrated as an actor, gave a superb performance as the goofball Owen - the man who took the struggling Duncan under his wing and helped him to realize that he was much more than a "three." Rockwell and young Mister James had some terrific on-screen chemistry.
All I can say is The Way, Way Back is a really great movie. My sister was right again!