An especially strong script gives actors plenty to chew on in this comedy-drama, in which writer-directors Faxon and Rash (The Descendants) take an observant look at the awkward connections we make with each other. Using sparky humour and emotion, the filmmakers and cast create vivid characters we can't help but identify with, even when they do all the wrong things.
At the centre, Duncan (James) is a 14-year-old who dreads spending the summer at a beach house owned by Trent (Carrel), the cruelly critical new boyfriend of his mother Pam (Collette). When they arrive, they meet gossipy neighbour Betty (Janney), who has a whole season of neighbourhood parties planned. And her daughter Susanna (Robb) looks just about as miserable as Duncan does. As he tries to escape, Duncan finds a local water park run by colourful misfit Owen (Rockwell), who takes Duncan under his wing and offers him a summer job. And being on his own gives him the badly needed self-confidence to talk to his mother honestly, take on Trent and maybe even ask Susanna out on a date.
Even though this is essentially a standard coming-of-age movie, the script never falls into the usual cliches. For example, when Duncan's first kiss comes along, it plays out in an unexpected, realistic way. This is a generous, honest comedy packed with terrific characters and resonant situations. Supported by the all-star cast, James delivers an impressive performance as a sullen teen struggling to face the world around him , growing up while remaining awkward and likeable. Meanwhile, Stockwell keeps us laughing with a lively party-boy turn that's underscored with sympathy. Collette beautifully layers the repressive, conflicted Pam. Carell goes nicely against type as the cruelly passive-aggressive Trent. And Janney steals the show with the most hilarious lines.
Continue reading: The Way, Way Back Review
The film's wit and charm win over even the harshest critics
The Way Way Back – a light, heart-warming comedy in the midst of an action-packed summer blockbuster season, saw its world premiere last month. The film hits US theatres (as a limited release) tomorrow, June 5th and there are already a number of opinions from critics floating around the internet.
Tony Collette stars as an out-of-touch mother in this one.
Duncan is a 14-year-old boy struggling to fit in anywhere and dealing with all the problems that most teenagers are forced to deal with at some stage. His mother Pam has a new boyfriend, Trent, who happens to be a jerk with a keen interest in humiliating Duncan at every opportunity. As the summer nears, the family embark on a vacation at Trent's beach house where he meets their new neighbour's daughter Susanna who, far from seeing him as a socially awkward and embarrassing individual, warms to Duncan immediately. He also meets the unprofessional and extroverted manager of the Water Wizz water park, Owen, who offers him a job and some excitement on his otherwise uninteresting vacation and subsequently helps him grow in confidence and self-belief.
Continue: The Way, Way Back Trailer
One scene will stay with me for the next six Christmases. Vince Vaughn, playing Santa Claus' dishonest brother Fred, attends a support group for second-banana siblings. Frank Stallone is there, sheepishly admitting that his faith in brother Sylvester faded with each new Rocky movie. Roger Clinton explains how difficult it was being "the First Brother." Fred tries to get a word in edgewise but ends up shouting at Stephen Baldwin (who is great, though we also would have accepted Daniel or Billy in the part).
Fred Claus needed two or three more thinking-outside-the-box scenes like this to help it become more than what it actually is: a fragile premise stuffed with hollow Christmas jokes that would collapse in a holiday heap if not for Vaughn's demonstrated charms.
The disgruntled older brother of jolly old St. Nick (played with warmth and patience by Paul Giamatti) isn't a character so much as the Vaughn persona we've seen in Wedding Crashers, The Break-Up, Old School, and Swingers. Dan Fogelman's script imagines an excuse to get Fred to the North Pole -- he needs $50,000 to open a bar, but Santa refuses the loan unless Fred works a few shifts in the family toy factory. Once in the winter wonderland, Fred avoids his judgmental mother (Kathy Bates), coaches an elf (John Michael Higgins) on how to woo one of Santa's beautiful helpers (Elizabeth Banks), and makes life difficult for an efficiency expert (Kevin Spacey) who is threatening to shut Santa's operation down.
Fred falters because director David Dobkin never definitively chooses between making a kid-friendly money maker or an edgy comedy aimed at our inner teenage boy. The PG rating suggests the former, with tall Vaughn looming over pint-sized co-stars and sleeping in undersized beds (too bad his buddy, Jon Favreau, already milked similar visuals with Will Ferrell in the superior Elf). But the concept of sibling rivalry, the outsourcing of elfin labor, and the need for an intervention will fly over the heads of young ones like Santa's sleigh above snow-covered rooftops on Christmas Eve. Ho, ho, oh well. Maybe next time.
Try a Rolaids.
An especially strong script gives actors plenty to chew on in this comedy-drama, in which...
Duncan is a 14-year-old boy struggling to fit in anywhere and dealing with all the...
Fred Claus trailerNot many people know Santa has a brother! Fred Claus lives in America...