Thursday, July 18, 2013

A Way Back State of Mind

An Inspiring “Way Way Back”

By Skip Sheffield

If you grew in a family that owned a station wagon, you know the term “The Way Way Back.” It’s that third and final seat, often facing backwards, in the Siberia region at the rear.
“The Way Way Back” is also a state of mind for Duncan, the unhappy 14-year-old hero of the new movie comedy by the same name.
Duncan is played by Liam James, a newcomer with great natural talent. The film is written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who wrote the Academy Award-winning screenplay for “The Descendants.”
Faxon and Rash have given themselves funny cameo roles as workers at a run-down water sports park called Water Wizz. There really is a Water Wizz Park on the coast in Marshfield, Massachusetts. It’s a kind of low-tech anti-Disney World, but it is a special place for Duncan, who is taken under the wing by Owen (Sam Rockwell), the jokey, self-confident manager of the park.
Duncan is on summer vacation in Massachusetts against his will. He would rather be with his dad, who is divorced from his mother Pam (Toni Collette). Pam has a new boyfriend named Trent, and he is a real jerk.
Trent is played by Steve Carell, who customarily plays nice guys. Trent is not a nice guy. He is cruel, untruthful, insincere and boastful. We first meet Trent in the gargantuan vintage Buick station wagon of the title.
“On a scale of one to ten,” how would you rate yourself?” he demands of Duncan.
“I don’t know,” Duncan stammers. “Maybe a six.”
“I think you’re a three,” answers Trent. With great economy, this tells you all you need to know about obnoxious Trent.
Trent owns an oceanfront cottage named Riptide. It is part of a summer colony of middle-aged funseekers. Next door neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) is a boozy, cheerful divorcee with a gorgeous daughter named Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb). Not only is Susanna beautiful; she is a couple years old than Duncan. In teen years that is an eternity, and Duncan has his pain-in-the-neck sister (Zoe Levin) to remind him how inadequate he is.
No wonder Duncan is bummed out. One day over Pac-Man Duncan meets Owen (Rockwell), who is the very embodiment of cool. Owen is witty, funny, good-looking and all the girls love him- especially his co-worker Caitlin (Maya Rudolph).
Owen sees Duncan as a kindred spirit and he takes him on as a personal cause. As Duncan gains in confidence the scales are lifted from his eyes so to speak, and he sees the uncomfortable truth about his mother’s needy relationship.
“The Way Way Back” is funny when it needs to be and quite moving where it counts. The early teen years are tough for even the most well-adjusted person. Throw in a few handicaps and a good kid can descend into Hell. If he can beat the odds, it can be inspirational in the best sense of the word.

No comments:

Post a Comment