14. The Way Way Back (PG-13) - Runtime: 103 minutes
Starring: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Liam James, Sam Rockwell
Directors: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Writers: Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
I'm sure most of you know, but I'm a sucker for coming-of-age stories - Perks of Being a Wallflower was essential viewing for the best of 2012. And now Nat Faxon's and Jim Rash's honest portrayal of growing up deserves to be lauded as one of the best films this year. From it's genuine take on divorce and single parenthood to the feel-good vibe of the waterpark atmosphere, they've created a near instant classic in my mind.
The movie opens up with Trent (Carell) badgering Duncan, letting him know that his opinion of him is a 3 out of 10. Immediately you know the kind of man Trent is and also where Duncan seems to be socially. One day Duncan finds himself at the Water Wizz, a water park run by a charming and somewhat dysfunctional manager, Owen (Rockwell). He finds employment and Water Wizz soon becomes his escape and also his spark to finding out who he is and learning to have fun. It sounds really, really corny, doesn't it?
But it isn't I swear! There's a real honest and heartfelt openness about Duncan's family life and you can see why he's been shy and introverted. And all of the other characters seem that way too - no one's too crazy (yeah, yeah Allison Janney is a bit kooky, but who doesn't have an Aunt or a family friends who likes to booze it up and be stupid?). Plus the movie is really funny and charming.
It's mainly the cast - Rockwell is perfect as Owen. He's enough of an outcast to make you want to get to know him more but also he's just so funny and inviting. He's the mentor to Duncan - and he embraces is with all his weird zaniness. Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Rob Corddry, AnnaSophia Robb, Steve Carell, Amanda Peet and Maya Rudolph all are just as good in their respective roles.
It's a feel good movie that doesn't seem to condescend or make light of teenage emotions and that sometimes can be a tricky movie. But the movie and characters are wonderfully written - Rash and Faxon are the duo who wrote 2011's Best Adapted Screenplay, The Descendants and it's clear here that they're on a winning streak.
Rating: See It! Twice!