Summer vacations should be fun, but shy 14-year-old Duncan (James) isn’t having the time of his life in The Way Way Back. He’s with his mother (Collette) at her boyfriend Trent’s (Carell) beach house – and, to put it plainly, Trent is an obnoxious prick: “Duncan, on a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are? I think you’re a 3…”
Desperate to avoid Trent, his mother, and the livewire Betty (Janney) next door, poor Duncan grabs a bicycle from the garage and pedals off in search of anything else. What he finds is the Water Wizz waterpark, managed by laid back Owen (Rockwell), who takes Duncan on as a helper while imparting the occasional nugget of humorous wisdom.
Written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who won an Oscar for their adapted screenplay of The Descendants (they also have minor acting roles in this movie), this is a funny, heartfelt coming of age movie, beautifully written and performed by a terrific cast. Steve Carell is perfect as the utterly unlikeable Trent, Collette heartbreaking as the single mother who settles for him, and Liam James – best known for his role in the TV series The Killing – is superb as the awkward teen trying to win the girl and survive the summer. Best of all, though, are Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell, both delivering bittersweet and very funny performances that will make you want to see this movie again and again.
Is The Way Way Back suitable for kids? Here are our parents’ notes...
None. This is aimed at older kids and adults so there is some swearing.