Nat Fraxton and Jim Rash’s The Way Way Back is about Duncan (Liam James), who is basically forced to go on a vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her relatively (but realistically) unlikable boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carrell).
Duncan doesn’t like the beach and he doesn’t like Trent’s friends. The only people he gets along with are the neighbor’s daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and a water park owner named Owen (Sam Rockwell). It’s a coming of age story that expertly blends comedy and drama, leaving you with bittersweet feelings throughout the film. At times, it is hilarious and at other times it’s uncomfortable to watch.
The acting is good all-around, but the real surprise comes from Steve Carrell, who is not at all funny. His dramatic, realistic portrayal of Trent is Carrell at his least charming. He’s oppressive, unapproachable, and demanding of Duncan, who mostly throughout the film wishes to be left alone.
The film is very well done, and the tonal shifts are smooth and work very well. 4.5/5