The Way Way Back [Review 76 for FQ13]


Why I Saw It: I’ve yet to see a performance from Sam Rockwell that I didn’t enjoy. Jim Rash and Nat Faxon did a great job writing the screenplay for The Descendants, and I was looking forward to seeing what they could do with a film that had a more comedic tone. The reviews the film has been getting were also a big factor that convinced me to see it as well.

What Was It About?  “14-year-old Duncan’s summer vacation with his mother, her overbearing boyfriend, and his daughter. Having a rough time fitting in, Duncan finds an unexpected friend in Owen, manager of the Water Wizz water park.

Rating: 8.2 out of 10

Memorable Performances: This film was filled with good characters and with at least above-average performances.

Allison Janney never fails to entertain, and this was absolutely a performance of hers I’ll remember, equally because of the way the character was written and the way she performed it. She was the absurd, lush neighbor that a lot of us are probably aware of from one point in our life or another, but she was able to give the character heart and keep from being annoying or unbelievable.

Though I’ve seen Nat Faxon in other things, none of them really stuck. His role in The Way Way Back wasn’t huge, but he had great chemistry with Sam Rockwell and Liam James and because his character was sufficiently entertaining, this role will stick.


While this performance from Jim Rash won’t oust his Dean Pelton from NBC’s COMMUNITY as his top performance, it was an entertaining albeit minor role.


AnnaSophia Robb gave a convincing performance as the seasonal neighbor who changes her perception of our protagonist as the movie moves forward and shows significant depth along the way. Her interactions with Liam James don’t feel forced, and you get the idea that if the film had a few more scenes featuring her, Robb could turn the role into something buzz-worthy.

Toni Collette and Steve Carell both gave really strong performances, in part due to the subtleties they incorporated and the honest natures of their portrayals.


Liam James and Sam Rockwell steal the show. Throughout everything I’ve seen Sam Rockwell in, this character might have the most depth, and he handled it amazingly. This father-son / mentor-mentoree type of relationship felt very unforced.


Potential Nominations for Film Quest ’13:  

  • Best Supporting Actress – Allison Janney
  • Best Supporting Actor – Steve Carell
  • Best Supporting Actor – Sam Rockwell
  • Best Actor – Liam James

Favorite Parts: The scene where Liam James’ character becomes “Pop and Lock”. AnnaSophia Robb’s character visit to the park (especially the part with Sam Rockwell and Nat Faxon using the P.A. system). The neighbor kid coming home after a night out. The Pac-man scene. Opening up the park and needing some coffee.


The Regrettable Aspects: The film felt a bit too short, and when we got to the end, I really found myself wanting more substance in the middle. At times it felt like Duncan ended up in places, listening to other peoples conversations, and it felt almost random that he was there and the presentation of him getting to that location felt forced.

Would I watch it again? I really enjoyed the second two-thirds of the film, so I’ll absolutely be watching it again, but the first third of the film was a bit painful for those of us capable of empathy.

To Whom Would I Recommend It?  Any who likes character-driven films which are split almost evenly between drama and comedy.

Other Recommendations:

RUSHMORE – It’s another story about a kid who doesn’t fit in and finds himself in a weird friendship with people who aren’t in his age group, and he flourishes because of it.

– LUCAS – The little guy doesn’t fit in, but he’s bound and determined to make his crappy situation work out for him despite the obstacles.

CONFESSIONS OF A DANGEROUS MIND – If you’re looking for another great performance by Sam Rockwell, look no further.

THE DESCENDANTS – The other great script-writing effort from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash.

If you’ve got recommendations for alternatives to THE WAY WAY BACK, or for other similar films, let me know!

Next up… who knows, haven’t seen it yet!

3 responses to “The Way Way Back [Review 76 for FQ13]

  1. Nice review man. It’s a wonderful movie that’s as obvious as you can get, but so sweet and heartfelt that you just can’t help but have a good time with.

  2. Pingback: Seven Psychopaths – Two Nearly Coherent, Awkwardly Meshed Stories [FQ13 #57] | Guys Film Quest·

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