The writing team behind “The Descendants” crafted a great role for George Clooney. Fresh off their much-deserved Oscar win for the screenplay, writers Jim Rash and Nat Faxon collaborated on a film that draws on the dynamics they created previously. When Oscar season rolls around, it would be surprising if these gentlemen don’t get nominated again for the masterpiece they’ve made.
Rash and Faxon wrote and directed “The Way Way Back,” a coming of age tale about a shy boy named Duncan. His mother’s new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell) seems to demean him, his mother (Toni Collette) oblivious to his feelings, and no friends to speak of. As he attempts to survive a summer at a beach house with his new family unit (including Trent’s daughter), Duncan struggles to find something rewarding in his life. After a chance meeting with a waterpark manager named Owen (Sam Rockwell), Duncan begins to open up. Owen hires him to work at the park and Duncan finds himself adopted by the misfits that occupy the place. But outside his new world, his home life continues to deteriorate.
The script starts in boldly, as Steve Carell plays against type as Trent and belittles Duncan. From the first scene, the audience aches for Duncan, which sets up his journey perfectly. The film roots for its underdog protagonist as it infects the audience. His story is simultaneously familiar and nostalgic. He’s the kid no one gave a chance, until Owen awakens him.
The film plays like a fantastic blend of John Hughes films and those summer romance teen flicks but all through the precise execution of Rash and Faxon’s direction. With a cast this superb, the script comes to life in a way 3D glasses never could imitate. The emotions are rare and real and nothing feels forced or fabricated. Sam Rockwell is the standout with a well-rounded role that hopefully award audiences will notice. This is more than a film; it’s an experience, one recommended to all audiences. Studios should take notice of Rash and Faxon and getting them working again soon. 4.5 out of 5 stars.
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