It doesn’t happen very often, but sometime, just sometimes, a movie is made with a story that transcends its plot and acts as a social marker for a subculture. The Way Way Back is such a movie, and it may be my best film of 2013 (which incidentally isn’t all that hard as the year has been a cesspool for the film industry).
A young man with a serious case of low self-esteem goes on summer vacation with his family to the beach home of his mother’s new boyfriend (who just so happens to be an class-A prick). Failing to fit in, Duncan finds a mentor in a staff member of a local waterpark who provides him with a job and some valuable life lessons through his off-kilter antics.
The Way Way Back blends artful storytelling and mainstream character appeal for a film that any fan of drama and comedy will just love. But more than that, Way Way Back is a retrospective gaze for all of us with a socially awkward past who longed for a little acceptance.
The Bottom Line
I often find myself gravitating towards science-fiction and horror as my genre’s of choice, but there’s something to be said about the “coming of age” drama and how it seems to possess this magnetic hold over me. I suppose any troubled youth would find comfort in a tale that specifically deals with a misfit and sees him or her rise to the occasion and eventually find their place in society – something that is often left unfulfilled until later years when the pressures of family and school are a distant memory. The Way Way Back is a rare treat to experience because it encapsulates the essence of a socially troubled adolescent and provides a mentor and spiritual guide to aid him on his journey to self-respect and maturity…and I’m not talking about Mr. Miyagi here. Sam Rockwell’s character is hardly the moral guide that one would expect, instead the lesson here is not of discipline, but rather that one should embrace who they are and enjoy the rewards of breaking out of one’s comfort zone. It’s an often repeated idea in film, but seldom is it portrayed to the effect that it has been in The Way Way Back.
So what makes The Way Way Back so special? For one, it’s easy to see that the writers have invested a lot of personal experience in this film, and that means an honest story from the heart, filled with real characters that can be related to. The characters themselves are just so incredibly unique, it would prove impossible to hate any of them – even Steve Carell’s character (who in a remarkable change of colour happens to be the antagonist of the film). I’ve always felt that Sam Rockwell is one of Hollywood’s most underrated talents – and I use the word talent sparingly as Rockwell is one of those few actors that can apply his personality to any role and still come out fresh, he’s simply that good. And If he doesn’t get some recognition for his role, I will be thoroughly surprised.
As a critic, it’s been pointed out that I watch movies and specifically isolate flaws in order to pick it apart – while there may be a certain degree of truth to this, I could not find a single flaw to nitpick on – The Way Way Back is undoubtedly one of the best coming of age dramas ever wrought onto the silver screen and it’s right up there with classics like The Breakfast Club and modern hits such as last years Perks of Being a Wallflower. It’s hard to exactly pin-point what makes the film the success that it is but the combination of dynamic, witty dialogue and fantastic on-screen chemistry from the pitch-perfect cast is one of the high points – the other being the sensitive and stylishly told narrative.
If at any point in your life, you found yourself alone, or that you didn’t quite fit in, The Way Way Back could be the film for you. Usually misfits are portrayed as these shady characters who seem out of touch with reality and choose the safety of privacy, but the stereotype is handled with care in The Way Way Back and given the respect it deserves rather than the ridicule. The Way Way Back is an appropriate output for those sensitive souls who feel the world sits in their shoulders, it’s a remarkably told story that is a rare gem in the sea of mediocrity that has been 2013, and if you miss this film, you may live to regret it.