(L-R; Steve Carrel, Toni Colette, Liam James, Anna SophiaRobb,Maya Rudolph ,Alison Janey ,Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry)
The Way Way Back (2013)
Genre: Drama, Comedy
Cast: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Steve Carrel, Allison Janney and Anna Sophia Robb
Duncan (Liam James), the protagonist of the movie is a 14-year-old who is having a tough time adjusting with his mother Pam’s (Toni Collette) overly annoying, respect-demanding boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrel), who does everything in his power to kill the confidence in Duncan and so does Trent’s self-absorbed, bitchy daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). To Duncan’s horror, Trent plans a family vacation to his mother’s beach house. His life becomes even more miserable because now he has to interact and be a part of unnecessary social gatherings that are hosted by Trent’s childhood neighbor- the divorced, boozy and over friendly Betty (Allison Janney) and his ex-girlfriend Joan (Amanda Peet). Finally, one day he stumbles upon a small pink cycle in Trent’s garage and wanders off to explore the town and by chance stops at an old water park called Water Wizz and meets the unambitious, fun-loving and a hippie-kind-of-guy, Owen (Sam Rockwell), who also happens to run the water park. As the story moves forward Duncan finds his escape from his situation by taking a job at Water Wizz and Owen happily takes Duncan under his wing, becoming a friend and a father figure which Duncan didn’t have in a very long time. Owen helps Duncan come out of his shell and helps him take all the advantages and challenges of life in his own quirky and unconventional ways during the short period of Duncan’s stay, including the challenge of approaching his pretty neighbour and his crush Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb).
source: Film International
Story and Characterisation: In the opening scene Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of 10, after various attempts of ignoring the vexatious Trent, Duncan finally gives up and defiantly, says, “6” and as expected Trent disdainfully says “you are 3” leaving Duncan feeling worthless. This scene explains the nature of a step-dad and son relationship.
Liam James as Duncan
Liam James makes Duncan’s misery physically evident. He walks like an old man who has lost his walking stick. Before he meets Owen, he behaves like a man of 80 years trapped in a body of a 14-year-old. His mere achievements include escaping Trent’s efforts to downtrodden him, slipping out of the house without making a conversation with anyone human and most importantly engaging in small talks with Susana his next door neighbor and potential lover.
The monotony of his life comes to an end when he meets Owen. Watching Sam Rockwell’s Owen is very Bill Murray-ish, a very non-conventional father figure who gives Duncan a job at the Water Park which later becomes Duncan’s very own La La Land. Owens gives Duncan a sense of belonging and makes him a hero in certain awkward situations in the movie and becomes somebody who not only listens to him but actually understands him. Everyone should have an Owen in their lives.
Everyone should have an Owen in their lives.
One can easily be fooled by the simplicity of the plot, but it’s anything but simple. The brilliance of the story is; while the focus is on Duncan and his “miserable life”, it also shows the complex relationships and feelings adults go through. Pam’s situation with Trent and Duncan; where she has to put up with Trent’s infidelity and Duncan’s irrational behavior. Trent’s feelings for his married ex Joan while he is in a happy relationship with Pam or maybe Pam and Trent have to be in a “happy relationship” for the sake of their children so the spot of the missing parent is filled on both the sides. Talk about complications!
Similar to Pam, Betty is also divorced but unlike Pam she doesn’t share a healthy relationship with her children and often her ideas of conforming to the social rules lead Sussana going all Black Widow on her, minus the violence.
Sam Rockwell as Owen
The charmer and the protagonist’s father figure- Owen, is also not a perfect man himself, he may have pulled Duncan out of his shell but the man himself is a frog in the pond, a rather happy one with no plan of taking a leap of faith from his pond. He has worked in the water park for most of his life and often pisses his love interest Caitlyn because of his irresponsible attitude towards work.
The movie gives a very 80’s feel to it, kind of reminded me of Mystic Pizza.
I thought I had covered the entire spectrum of Steve Carrel’s versatility until I came across this, he did an awesome job playing the most annoying character after Dinner for Schmucks, this was another undiscovered level.
Liam James played a method actor, his portrayal as Duncan was brilliantly awkward and real. In spite of being alongside mainstream academy award nominated actors, Liam stood out and gave a dynamic performance without being overshadowed by them and bringing his own style to it
Toni Collette and Alison Janey had previously played similar characters like Pam and Betty and were good as usual.
The real star of the movie was Sam Rockwell. He added so much life and colour to the movie. He reminded me of Bill Murray and Matthew McConaughey owing to the western and rustic charm he brings in the movie. Many critics suggested he should’ve have been nominated for an Oscar for his role as Owen, and I see why.
Verdict-It’s a refreshing movie. A must watch at least once. If you haven’t watched Sam Rockwell movies before, then this is a good start.
Reel Value – 7.5/10