Friday 30 August 2013, 18:38
This film is my pick of the week. The cast of The Way Way Back is fantastic and the most inspired bit of casting is Steve Carell. He’s not playing an idiot or the straight man or a comedian, he is a nasty piece of work. Duncan is an awkward 14 year old who’s forced to spend his summer with his mum (Toni Collette – In her Shoes, About a Boy, Little Miss Sunshine) and her new boyfriend, who is a total jerk (introducing Steve Carell). To escape the grown-ups, he hangs out at a local water park until the manager (who is a total ledge in the form of Sam Rockwell) takes pity on him and invites Duncan into his hilarious inner circle.
The Way Way Back Trailer
As with any coming-of-age story, there is bullying, falling in lust and hormonal outbursts but The Way Way Back does it better than I’ve seen it done in a while. Possibly because, as I may have mentioned, Sam Rockwell is bloody fantastic. He was the horrible, creepy murderer in The Green Mile (not The Shawshank Redemption as I may have said in my on-air review on Radio 1…), he was in black comedy Seven Psychopaths and the wonderful sci-fi, Moon. He is full of witty one-liners, he’s cheeky, he’s like the perfect older brother. Or rather your friend’s older brother because that means you get to fancy him a little. I was also grateful that they made an effort with the character of Duncan, played by Liam James. Yes, he’s a social disaster at the beginning but you see his transformation in a way that is moving and exciting. It’s not a case of “he takes off his glasses and he was beautiful the whole time”* but it’s the way that the filmmakers portray the effect of how a bit of confidence and trust in others can be truly life-changing.
Steve Carell’s character is vile. He really is. Sleazy, nasty, competitive, desperate to undermine Duncan at every turn while the mum just turns a blind eye, deliberate in her attempts not to lose this man at the risk of alienating her son. It was this aspect of the film that I struggled with, I just couldn’t believe that a mother, who was obviously quite caring in many ways, would be so oblivious to her boyfriend’s bullying of her son. It’s great seeing Carell flex his acting muscles but the other person who I’m a little obsessed with in this movie is Allison Janney. You’ll recognize her from The West Wing, as the sex-fixated teacher in 10 Things I Hate About You and the cat-fixated step-mum in Juno. She is an absolute scene-stealer in The Way Way Back as Betty, the nosy neighbour with a possible drink problem who sees more than she lets on. She had me in fits of giggles from the get-go and Carell himself said that he was “riveted and fascinated” by Janney’s performance – he knows best. If you see one film this week, let it be The Way Way Back and let me know what you think - @BBCR1Rhianna.
*possibly a stolen line from Pitch Perfect