The Way Way Back

First Hit:  Very well acted film about a very young man finding his self-esteem and himself.

There are lots of young men who have had or are having the feeling of just being worthless and not of value.

At the opening of the film, Trent (Steve Carell), Pam (Toni Collette), Steph (Zoe Levin) and Duncan (Liam James) are headed to Trent’s summer beach house for an extended vacation. Duncan is asked by Trent, his mother’s boyfriend, what is his number?  “How do you rank yourself between 1 and 10?” Duncan doesn’t want to answer, is clearly irritated with the question, and reluctantly responds with “6”, “I’m a 6” he says. 

Trent laughs off this number and immediately says “I think you’re a 3.” Then he tells him why he’s a 3 and none of it is helpful to young Duncan. In fact it puts yet another wall between him and Trent. He hates being in this situation, wants to be with his dad (who now lives with young girl in California) and hates that his mom has chosen this man to be with.

They drive up to the house, the neighbor Betty (Alison Janney) is waiting to “get the party started”. Betty is divorced and has two kids Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and Peter (River Alexander). Trent and Betty invite other neighbors Kip and Joan (Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet respectively) and their regression into too much drinking, smoking dope, and sexual dalliances begins.

To get away from the adult madness, Duncan starts taking off every day on a bike just to get away. Eventually he finds his way to the area’s "Water Wizzin" which is a water park. Here he meets Owen (Sam Rockwell) who immediately sizes Duncan up and makes it his business to help the kid find his way.

All through this film we are given views into the incongruent nature and behavior of parents and the effects on young teenage kids who are also looking to find their way into adulthood.

James is sublime. He fully captures the boy who has little self-esteem. His walk, look, and manner of speaking are spot-on perfect, a truly outstanding performance. Collette, is very good as Duncan’s mom who would like to trust a man in a relationship again and goes beyond her comfort zone to find out if the relationship with Trent will work. Carell is very good as the jerk guy who is trying to be friends with Duncan but asserting his alpha maleness to keep control of things. Levin is good as Trent’s daughter who doesn’t like what she is seeing and wants to grow up too soon. Robb is very strong as the girl who reaches out to Duncan and is touched by his path. Rockwell is extraordinary as the guy who never grew up but wants to help young guys find their way. Janney is very good as the nosy, drinks too much, and innocently flirtatious neighbor. Nat Faxon and Jim Rash wrote and directed this film and their spot-on screenplay and direction brought this film home elegantly.

Overall:  This is a wonderful film and truly a joy to watch.