Saturday, July 27, 2013

The Way Way Back (Rhoades)

“The Way Way Back”
Takes You Back

Reviewed by Shirrel Rhoades

Think back to when you were fourteen. Sucked, didn’t it? It’d hard being a tween, a time of puberty and angst -- not quite being grown up, but no longer a child.
If that tweaks your memory, you’ll identify with Duncan, the 14-year-old at-a-loss subject of “The Way Way Back.”
This coming-of-age dramedy -- currently playing at the Tropic Cinema -- is the brainchild of Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, the Oscar-winning scriptwriters of “The Descendants.” This is their directorial debut, but you’d think they’ve been at it for ages.
They call their screenplays “mining our own personal family dysfunction.”
Here, Duncan (Liam James) is a mopey teen who’s at odds with his mother’s boyfriend, a jerk named Trent (played against type by Steve Carell).
When Trent asks how highly Duncan thinks of himself on a scale from one to ten, the shy kid answers, “Six.”
“I think you’re more of a three,” counters Trent.
“I think he’s a guy who is sort of done being a father,” says Nat Faxon. “Which is why he says to Duncan that he needs to get out of the house and not hang around there all the time.”
Fortunately, Duncan’s miserable existence takes a turn for the better when he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell), the cool guy who manages Wizz World, a ramshackle water park located on the Massachusetts shore. Next thing you know, Duncan has a part-time job and is learning how to be cool too. Meeting girls. Copping a stare at their bikinied bottoms. Becoming one of the guys.
Jim Rash says that put-down scene was the genesis for this movie. “The whole conversation about ranking Duncan on a scale from one to ten — that actually happened to me. Yeah, that scene was sort of pulled verbatim from my 14-year-old experience going to our summer vacations in Michigan. My stepfather at the time actually had that conversation with me.”
The second motive was Wizz World. “A fascination and enjoyment for going to these types of water parks while growing up on the East Coast, with all of these eclectic characters. We definitely wanted to enter that world,” adds Rash.
Nat Faxon nods his love of water parks. The duo even cast themselves as minor characters in the movie. Faxon plays a water park employee who likes to make the bikini-clad girls wait a bit longer before sliding down the Devil’s Peak slide. And Rash is a guy who is always threatening to split the dead-end gig, but never quite does.
“The Way Way Back” held a longstanding place on Hollywood’s so-called Black List, the best movie scripts not yet in production. It took the duo eight years to get the movie made. “Movies sort of help each other in a way,” Faxon explains. “The script got us in the door to meet with Alexander Payne’s production company and got us the job for ‘The Descendants’ -- and then the momentum from ‘The Descendants’ provided us the opportunity to finally make ‘The Way, Way Back.’ They’re connected in many ways.”
The film’s ensemble cast also includes Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, and Amanda Peet.
Does “The Way Way Back” tweak audiences’ memories? “It is interesting to see, from screening to screening, just the wide variety of young to adult viewers, female and male, having found something similar that they connected to in the movie,” nods Jim Rash. “I think it’s that power of the genre – coming of age movies and rights of passage – some people can remember having had that experience while somebody else is perhaps watching it while still going through it.”

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