It’s been a really long time since I wrote on here, due to the fact that I’ve been travelling around Asia and Australia, but hopefully I’ll make it up by writing a lot over the next month. While I was away, and since I’ve been back, I was making my way through a long list of movies that I need to watch. Some I really, really should’ve seen, but haven’t yet, some are weird ones that happen to have an actor I love in it, and some are ones I’d never heard of but saw a trailer on YouTube and added it to the list. So far I’ve got through an outrageous number, including ‘Tree of Life’, ‘Blue Jasmine’, ‘Hacksaw Ridge’, ‘Looper’, ‘500 Days of Summer’, ‘Juno’, ‘Inside Man’ and ‘Zombieland’. That just gives you an idea of how varied my watching has been. Some of the ones I’ve watched have been really, really great, and I’ll write about another one of those this week, but I wanted to write about one that was fresh in my mind because I watched it at 1:00am last night. That film is ‘The Way, Way Back’, written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.
I don’t really know why I watched this, because the trailer was pretty shocking, but I saw it was written by Jim Rash (who I love from ‘Community’), and that it had Steve Carrell (who I love from ‘The Office’) and Sam Rockwell, who I’ve never really clicked with, but wanted to watch more of his stuff. The first thing I’ll say is that it’s a miracle that there’s a good film set in a waterpark. Like, there’s an incredible amount of films in waterparks that are diabolical (think ‘Piranha 3DD’ and ‘Grown Ups’), but this one is really, really good. It follows a 14 year old Duncan who goes on a summer vacation with his mum, her new boyfriend and his daughter. On the trip they meet other neighbouring families, and the adults go mental and get drunk/high all the time. Duncan doesn’t get on at all with his mum’s boyfriend, Trent, expertly played by Steve Carrell, who continues to impress me the more I see him act. Carrell is such an underrated, diverse actor, who has completely outshone his traditional reputation as a one-dimensional comedic actor. From ‘Anchorman’ to ‘Foxcatcher’ to ‘The Big Short’ to this, Carrell has proved that not only is he a master of comedy, but also a fantastic dramatic actor. Sorry, that was a big tangent, I just love Steve Carrell man. So, Duncan isn’t really enjoying his holiday, and ends up meeting Sam Rockwell’s Owen at a restaurant, who ends up mentoring him and hiring him at Water Wizz, the park that he is the manager of. The two develop a heartwarming relationship that gives Duncan newfound confidence to stick up for himself. It’s not a groundbreaking plot, I realise.
The undeniable charm of this film comes in the nuanced acting and tight, witty script, which comes together to form not a unique coming-of-age film, but definitely a stand-out one. I’ve already spoken about Carrell, who does an excellent job of being thoroughly unlikeable, but Liam James as Duncan does well to make the classic ‘awkward teen’ role not boring at all. AnnaSophie Robb is solid as the love interest, however it did seem like there was a big build up for her Susanna and Duncan, which didn’t have much of a big conclusion. Maya Rudolph, Allison Janney and Rash and Faxon themselves are all expectedly great as supporting roles, but the real star of this film is, of course, Sam Rockwell. I’ve always had a weird issue with actors when I don’t like the first character I see them play. Not that I don’t like their acting, I mean when they play a mean character. It’s very odd. It’s not a conscious thing, I think I just do it. When I was much, much younger, I used to flat out refuse to watch anything with Ben Stiller in it. I fully hated Ben Stiller, because the first thing I saw him in was ‘Happy Gilmore’, where he’s really, really mean. Maybe that’s been my issue with Sam Rockwell. The first thing I saw him in was ‘Iron Man 2’, and I just didn’t like his character. However, this is possibly the film that turns my opinion of him. I’ve always appreciated that he’s a great actor, but he’s never felt likeable to me, and in ‘The Way, Way Back’ he cranks the likeability up to 11. He brings a sharp, quick wit to every single line that gives it an improvised feeling, as well as a warm, emotional depth to his relationship with every other character in the film. The way he fills Duncan’s void and need for a father figure is beautiful, and his hilarious interactions with everyone else at the park show how charismatic Rockwell can be.
Initially, I thought Owen would have a breakdown about how he’s unfulfilled in his life, etc etc, and this would be a pretty standard summer film. But it was so refreshing and poignant to see a character of pure joy, a source of light to everyone they come into contact with, which is exactly what Duncan needed. I think this film will be relatable for most people, old or young, and if you look past the waterpark setting, the truly awful posters and trailers, you’ll find a criminally underrated, deeply human and touching film. Give it a watch. (Also, in 2013, there were some really amazing actors in really amazing films, and the Best Actor category at the Academy Awards was stacked, but for what it’s worth, Rockwell should’ve been nominated. Simple as.)
Best scene: The PA embarassment
Best character: Owen
Best actor/actress: Sam Rockwell (breaking my rule of not having best character and actor as the same person…)
Best quote: “I’m Owen, I’m a good friend of the three.”