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home : columnists and contributors : columnists and contributors August 28, 2014

9/25/2013 12:01:00 AM
Movie Review: The Way Way Back
Cynthia Morse Zumbaugh


It's not often I am this pleasantly surprised at the movies. I had never heard of this movie, not so much as one advertisement, but I saw that the cast included Steve Carell and Toni Collette, so I gave it a try and I'm glad that I did. It's a simple little coming-of-age movie but with a twist because it's not just the gawky teenager who does some growing up.

Duncan (Liam James) is a nerdy adolescent, painfully shy with girls and not weathering his parents' divorce very well. When he and his mother (Toni Collette) join her boyfriend (Steve Carell) and his daughter at his summer home, life becomes nearly unbearable. Carell's Trent is one of the most obnoxious and slimy characters that I have seen in quite a while and his major activities at the vacation home are drinking and infidelity. With Betty (Allison Janney,) the neurotic divorcee next door who handles the realization that her husband left her for another man with excessive drinking and very strange parenting and neighbors Kip and Joan (Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet,) the party never ends.

Duncan finds refuge in the local water park and strikes up a strange friendship with Owen, the manager and the other assorted misfits at the park. He is also befriended by Betty's daughter, Susanna, literally the girl next door. Watching Duncan mature is expected, but seeing some of those around him make the same advancement is a little less predictable.

Steve Carell is totally odious; I would never have thought he had it in him. Collette and Janney are both wonderful actresses and Sam Rockwell is outstanding in a wonderfully nuanced performance as Owen, the Peter Pan of the Water Park. Maya Rudolph and Jim Rash both offer up some interesting moments as other employees at the water park, but it was Liam James and AnnaSophia Robb as Susanna who truly impressed; there are some sweet and completely believable moments between them and River Alexander as Susanna's younger brother steals ever scene he can.

It would be difficult to pigeonhole this movie into a specific genre. There is a little drama, a little romance and some of the funniest scenes in a movie this year.

Rated PG-13, there is some sexual innuendo and conversation, but no nudity and really nothing on screen. There is some profanity, not an overwhelming amount, and it is used in conversation instead of in lieu of conversation. There is no violence, though there were some disturbing scenes and conversations that I would consider abusive.




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