The Way, Way Back is a film entirely dependent upon its cast, which makes sense considering the fact that it is the brainchild of two successful character actors. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash both have the ability to appreciate the benefits of a strong supporting cast, having often filled those roles themselves as they display with minor bits in The Way, Way Back, which they also co-wrote and co-directed together. It is a directorial debut for both, and while at times their story seems to lack focus, it is their ability to get out of the actor’s way that cultivates such a rich viewing experience. Each character has unique personality flaws, and paired with their very human shortcomings in the screenplay is a masterful bit of casting in this ensemble dramedy.
Liam James heads up the cast as our awkward teen,
a fourteen-year-old being juggled between his two divorced parents. With a
recently remarried father, Duncan
is forced to spend the summer with his mother (Toni Collette) at the beach house
of her arrogant new boyfriend (Steve Carell). Despite an attractive girl next
door (AnnaSophia Robb) and a house on the beach, it looks to be a miserable
summer for the introverted Duncan until he makes an unlikely friend in an
irresponsible water park employee named Owen (Sam Rockwell). Owen’s
over-the-top confidence has an impact on Duncan ’s
demeanor, which is apparent to everyone around him, from the cute girl next
door to his mother, even though he keeps his time at the water park a secret. Duncan
Much of The Way, Way Back seems to drift without purpose. There isn’t any clear storyline, despite many obligatory coming-of-age sequences, leaving this to be a film about performances. No character is wasted in the screenplay, and no cast member gives anything less than a completely dedicated performance. Even in its shortcomings, The Way, Way Back is never less than enjoyable thanks to great casting and some naturally nuanced performances. It isn’t a spectacular film, but it doesn’t need to be. This film does something simple and fairly unoriginal, but manages to feel fresh and complex with the sincerity of the material.
The Blu-ray release also includes a digital HD Ultraviolet copy of the film. Exclusive to the Blu-ray is a making-of featurette with some great behind-the-scenes footage with the cast. There are also some deleted scenes and more behind-the-scenes footage in a few more featurettes about the locations, filmmakers and ensemble cast.
Entertainment Value: 8/10
Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10
Historical Significance: 7/10
Disc Features: 7/10