I love Steve Carrell. I think he’s a great comedic actor, and from everything I’ve seen on him he seems like a genuine nice guy – and he a great job of making me hate him in today’s movie, the 2013 coming-of-age comedy, The Way Way Back.
This is the story of Duncan, a 14-year old forced to go on a vacation with his mother, her boyfriend (Carell) and his daughter. While he is there and feeling miserable, he finds himself hanging/hiding out at a nearby water park, where he is befriended by the park manager, and man-child Owen, played by Sam Rockwell. He eventually starts working at the park, the one place that makes him happy, while trying to avoid his mother, his possible future step-family, and (most of) their neighbors as much as possible.
Early on this movie, I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for. Carell’s character really came out of the starting gate being a jerk, but I wasn’t sure if he was trying tough love, and might eventually come around a be a good guy. His daughter really was kind’ve a snobby bitch, but again I wondered if she would turn around. His mother, played by Toni Collette, seemed happy with Steve Carrell’s Trent, so part of me thought that I would eventually be happy with him. There were small sparks where I thought, okay he might be okay.
I just felt bad for the kid. He was out there with no friends, and it seemed like nobody wanted much to do with him – and even his mother wasn’t paying too much attention to him. Only the girl next door, played by AnnaSophia Robb, seemed to show any interest in him – if even to be his friend.
For me, the part where the movie really picked up – and I really started to enjoy it, was when the Sam Rockwell’s Owen was introduced. The first time we meet him, Duncan runs into him at a local pizza place playing Pac-Man (say that 5 times fast) and they have a small interaction that showed that Owen might be a good guy.
And later on at the waterpark, where Duncan ends up spending just about every moment of every day, I ended up loving his character as the big kid who seems happy with his lot in life.
As the movie goes on, Steve Carell’s character gets exposed as being more of a prick than he was even in the beginning. His daughter started the movie as a bitch and ended the movie not quite different. Toni Collette’s character almost – almost – didn’t have a character arc. Really it was Duncan who changed the most. He went for a quiet kid with not a lot of confidence, to a popular kid with lots of friends at the waterpark, who even had the confidence to stick up for his mother and to his mother. This movie was all about him finding himself, and I feel like at the end of the movie he really did.
My one hope is that his character keeps going back to the beach for the summer and keeps working at the waterpark. They never say, “hey see you next summer” and I would’ve loved to hear that – in a strange way I would’ve found it comforting. We didn’t hear it, so I’ll just imagine that this summer there – was not his last summer there.
A few things of note:
- The water park in this movie, Water Wizz, actually exists on Cape Cod and was used as a filming location for the movie.
- I wanted to mention Allison Janney who played the (seemingly always drunk) next door neighbor. I feared I was going to get annoyed by her character, but she ends up being pretty funny and all-together a pretty nice person.
- I knew the kid who played Duncan, Liam James, looked familiar, but I couldn’t figure out exactly why – until I saw that I’ve watched him for years (in a small role) on the AMC/Netflix show, The Killing – which I need to finish at some point.
- This movie was written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. If you don’t recognize their names, they actually won the Oscar in 2012 for best screenplay for their adaptation of the George Clooney movie, The Descendants. They are also both actors. I’ve been aware of Nat Faxon for years, just by recognizing his face from certain things and then enjoying him on the short lived sitcom, Ben and Kate. Jim Rash I’ve loved for years as the eccentric Dean Craig Pelton on one of my all-time favorite shows, Community. If you still aren’t familiar with them – and you watched this movie, then you already know what they look like as they both played characters working at the water park.
It’s pretty safe to say, going forward I am going to make sure to watch anything these guys put out.
I really enjoyed this movie mainly because it just made me feel good. Towards the end of the movie, the main character has a moment where, when things seem at their darkest, a decision has to be made. I found myself saying “do it” – because the creators of this movie did the one thing that I look for in a movie or television show.
They made me care.