Every so often there is a film that wows audiences with it's realistic heart and soul, 2013's The Way, Way Back is that film for this year. Not only does it have heart and soul, it captures the realism of being a teenager in those awkward growing years with near perfection.
14 year old Duncan is forced to spend the summer with his mom's new boyfriend whom he doesn't much care for. Duncan is shy, doesn't have a lot of friends and spends most his time a lone. After he meets Owen, the charismatic slacker manager of the local water park his summer changes. He finally has someone to talk and he begins to feel more confident.
Instantly The Way, Way Back just felt right. It is one of those small independent flicks that has all the right key pieces in all the right places. Written by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, who both make supporting appearances The Way, Way Back focuses on a young man's struggle to be comfortable with himself. Right away star Liam James made the audience feel for his protagonist Duncan by the way he carried himself around. His shoulders were slouched, his words were mumbled and he just looked downright miserable. As the film progresses Duncan begins to find his words better, even opening up to the girl next door Susanna. James is going to be a great star, his range present in this film.
Steve Carell and Sam Rockwell have the biggest tasks as supporting cast. Carell was cast against his normal role and it pays dividends when viewing the final product. His character of Trent is mean, disrespectful and has no care for Duncan. Carell shows off his range as well in a role he has never played before. Watching him sound so arrogant and self righteous almost made me hate the character with all my passion and usually Steve Carell is the most lovable part of a film. Rockwell on the other hand was charming, funny and magnetic. His personality drew you in, and he rocked every scene he was in giving it a much needed burst of energy.
As far as acting films don't get much better then this, a far as themes we have seen all of this before. A shy kid coming of age in a town he at first hates and later begins to like because of the people he meets. A family dynamic that is fragile and susceptible to outside issues, and a bunch of rag tag misfits so out of the ordinary that fit together in order to complete each other social circles. It has all been done before, but rarely is it down with so much heart and grace as Jim Rash and Nat Faxon were able to do it.
Easily one of the most engaging films of 2013, the characters are what draw you in and the heart is what keeps your eyes glued to the screen. Another example of why a coming of age story done right can never grow old. As an adult film viewer, there is a soft spot for films like this one. The ones that capture the realism and the emotional ups and downs of what growing up is really all about.