Sunday, July 7, 2013

'The Way, Way Back' has heart, hilarity, and brilliance

Here's the thing. I saw this movie maybe 2 months ago. I'm reviewing it now. Which is a terrible strategy. It's never good. But what is important, is that I love this movie more after letting it sink in, even more so than I did in May.

The Way, Way Back is that "coming-of-age" film this year that really sets the bar for what's to come in 2013. It's been a pretty abysmal summer, and year in film. There's been a few films here and there, but nothing that's really been fantastic. Man of Steel was a slight let down, I didn't love Iron Man 3 as much as I wanted to, Place Beyond the Pines had way too earlier of a release date. It just really hasn't been a great year so far. But all that has changed because The Way, Way Back is easily my favorite movie so far this year,

The Sundance Film Festival alum 'The Way, Way Back' begins with some back and forth banter between Duncan (Liam James) and his Mom's new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell). Immediately the entire film is established. Protagonist. Antagonist. Eventually Duncan, his Mom (Toni Collette) and Trent arrive at a beach house and that's where they find alcoholic comedic genius Betty (Allison Janney) and her daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb). And from there we have our film. Duncan struggles with his awkwardness and lack of confidence, as well as the fact that he doesn't really have any friends at this summer house. He makes his way to a water park and gets a job there, run by the scene-stealer Sam Rockwell.

I did a full breakdown about how Sam Rockwell is in the lead for Best Supporting Actor right now. He hit on every single joke he had. I'm sure he did plenty of improv. He knocked this role out of the park. He was fantastic. He was dramatic when he needed to be, and his chemistry with Duncan was perfect. If the two of them don't have chemistry, the film fails. No matter how good the rest of the film is. Every time Rockwell is on screen you're just fixed on his character. He's perfect.

The Way Way Back was directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, both of whom play supporting roles in the film as well. They wrote the film 'The Descendants', and they wrote this film as well. They did such a wonderful job crafting this film together. It sounds like such a typical film with a familiar plot, but it's just different for some reason. I think in large part due to the directing, as well as the ensemble cast that was assigned perfectly.

I only have one complaint about his film. It took me a while to buy into Liam James' portrayal of Duncan. Something about it just hung me up. And then I thought about it. He's supposed to be awkward, shy, and to a certain extent unlikeable. He does everything he's supposed to do perfectly. I think some of my displeasure for Duncan came from the fact that it was his character, and not necessarily Liam James's performance.

I'm a big score and soundtrack guy. I love to hear music from a film. The soundtrack for this film is perfect. It really did a good job establishing a tone and lyrically, it actually very well represented each scene. Two songs in particular- "Power Hungry Animals" by The Apache Relay (featured in the trailer), and "Alone" by Trampled by Turtles-really hit you hard. This movie has an emotional payoff at the end, and without those two songs, it just wouldn't have worked as well.

This is the best movie that has come out so far in 2013. I adored this film. It definitely is a perfect summer movie for what has been an abysmal summer so far. I didn't have anything wrong with this movie. I can't wait to see it again. I'm giving The Way, Way Back my first ever 5/5 rating.

The Way, Way Back is rated PG-13 for thematic elements, language, some sexual content and brief drug material. Run-time 104 minutes. It is currently in limited release. Click here for when it will play in theaters near you

You can follow Will Harmon at @willharmon8 on Twitter.

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