The Way, Way Back (2013) *1/2
Dir. Nat Faxon, Jim Rash
Starring: Liam James, Sam Rockwell, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb
Review By Greg Klymkiw
Maybe it's just me, but I find indie-minded domestic coming of age dramedies like The Way, Way Back really sickening.
They almost always involve a lonely teenager (here, a boy, played by Liam James) who goes on a vacation with his now-single Mom (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend (Steve Carell), who is an utter and total dick (and a half). Mom is so desperate for a man she allows herself to be cheated on, psychologically abused and look the other way when her A2M-loving paramour continually puts her son down.
Of course, the vacation is in some mildly exotic location aimed at the ever-dwindling bourgeoisie of the world and it's no different here. This allows the filmmakers to populate the movie with a lot of "colourful" locals (who are mostly sickening) and for the kid to develop a crush on a sweet young thang (AnnaSophia Robb) whose Mother (Allison Janney) is horrendously "kooky".
The thang's Mom is a pushy, loud-mouthed equine cross between a bargain basement Carol Burnett and a low-end latter-day Joan Crawford-style harridan. One desperately desires to impart upon the lad some sage advice like: "Uh, before you fall for someone, look at their mother to get a glimpse into what you might end up with a few years from now." (It's wisdom gleaned from the North End of Winnipeg and as such, unimpeachable.)
And, of course, since everyone needs to be quirky in these locales (and, if you want to call them this, movies), the kid meets a charming loser (Sam Rockwell) who turns into a less-than-stellar, though very amusing, role model. Through the loser, the kid gets a loser summer job at the place where the loser works for the woman who loves him (Maya Rudolph) - a woman who is so attractive, appealing, with it and together that she runs a successful business that targets oodles of losers as customers - in this case, a decrepit water park called (haha - wait for it, this is fucking hilarious) Water Wizz (which, even more surpringly, turns out to be a real place) - and one wonders why she puts up with a lazy, unambitious, though kind-hearted and funny loser.
It must be the kind-hearted and funny attributes that allows her to ignore his loser qualities.
Of course, this doesn't excuse the Mom character Toni Collette valiantly plays. I mean, Jesus, she's divorced from some asshole who cheated on her with veritable jail bait and is so uninterested in his own son that he's pretty much absent from the kid's life and here she is, hooked up with the snotty, wormy-legged, hawk-beaked, shifty-and-beady-eyed Steve Carell who clearly hates her and her son, but seems to need doormats in his life to justify screwing more desirable candidates on the side.
You know, if Sam Rockwell WASN'T as charming and funny as he actually is in this film, I can't imagine anyone wanting to sit through this predictable, by-rote, pretend-edgy glorified TV sitcom expanded to feature length proportions.
Mostly though, I find it hard to believe the characters populating the world of this film bear any resemblance to anyone I'd want to know. All I can think of is that the audiences for this modest-sized hit must be seeing themselves and their friends and/or family in the movie, thus allowing them to alternately chuckle and nod knowingly as they look into the mirror purporting to be a movie.
It's not only sickening, it's pathetic.
"The Way, Way Back" is currently in wide-ish release from 20th Century Fox.