Movie Reviews: The Way, Way Back
It didn't even open at the beginning of the Fourth of July holiday, and it's only being screened in 19 theaters, but Fox Searchlight's The Way, Way Back is garnering a heap of praise from critics. As Joe Morgenstern remarks in the Wall Street Journal, If you follow the money, and how much of it the studios can squander on hollow junk, then the big news of the moment is the release of The Lone Ranger. If you're looking for pleasure, though, for the surprise and depth of feeling that a wonderful movie can convey, The Way, Way Back is the revelation of the day. Back in January, when it premiered at Sundance, Kyle Smith wrote in the New York Post, The Way, Way Back is the first movie I've seen at the fest ... that I really loved ... [It's] sweet without being syrupy, it's commercial without being a sell-out, and its dialogue sparkles from beginning to end. Several of the critics suggest that what sets the film apart from so many other coming-of-age dramas is that it feels real. Writes Betsy Sharkey in the Los Angeles Times: Authenticity gives the movie its witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing and relatable edge. Similarly Claudia Puig comments in USA Today: The story is never cloying, though it does teeter on the 'summer I'll never forget' trope. However, it transcends the pitfalls of that convention, coming across as authentic and winning. Another solid factor, say the critics, is the performance by 16-year-old actor Liam James. Writes Bill Zwecker in the Chicago Sun-Times: This young Canadian actor has a true gift; he can communicate a litany of emotions just by a quick glance or a single word of dialogue. A mediocre review, however, comes from A.O. Scott in the New York Times, who says that the movie is merely pleasantly watchable and in the end seems small and anecdotal, a modest variation on something you've seen before. And the only outright negative review among the major newspaper critics comes from Liam Lacey in the Toronto Globe and Mail, who dismisses it as awash in safe choices, from indie-pop-accompanied montages to sitcom one-liners and black-and-white characters.