Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: The Way, Way Back (Blu-ray + DigitalHD)
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Written and directed by the team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (winners of the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants), The Way, Way Back is absolutely one of the best films of 2013 so far. And even saying that feels inadequate because it's such a fine film, a coming-of-age comedy/drama with a great script, fine performances by a superb cast, and directed with a flawless natural touch so that there's never a moment where things feel false or forced.

The Way, Way Back is seen from the point of view of Duncan (Liam James), the shy and awkward fourteen-year-old son of recently divorced Pam (Toni Collette), as they head out on a summer vacation with Pam's also-divorced boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent's teenaged daughter Steph (Zoe Levin). Riding in the back of Trent's station wagon, Duncan is visibly less than thrilled at the prospect. It's quickly apparent why in the opening scene when Trent engages Duncan in conversation while Pam and Steph are sleeping, asking Duncan to rate himself on a scale from one to ten. When Duncan shrugs and rates himself a middling "six", Trent immediately responds with a down-putting

"I think you're a three. You know why I think you're a three? Since I've been dating your mom, I don't see you putting yourself out there, bud. The good news is that there are going to be plenty of opportunities for you to take advantage of at my beach house this summer. It's a big summer for all of us really. So what do you say you try to get that score up huh? Aim a little higher than a three? You up for that, buddy?"

Which tells us everything we need to know about Trent and how he deals with people.

When they arrive at Trent's beach house, they are immediately greeted by neighbor, Betty (Allison Janney), who like Pam is divorced with kids, teenage daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and younger son Peter (River Alexander). Later on they are joined by Trent's friends Joan (Amanda Peet) and Kip (Rob Corddry). Duncan feels distinctly out of place and increasingly miserable. Trent and Pam are always partying with Trent's friends (with Trent constantly seeming to find ways to intimidate or humiliate Duncan). Steph is like a miniature version of her father, bossing her own clique around and not wanting anything to do with Duncan. Peter's too young to be company, and Susanna is, well, a girl, and Duncan finds it very difficult to talk to girls. Even when Susanna makes the effort to talk to him.

Desperate to get away from the beach house, Duncan finds a small girls' bike - probably Steph's when she was younger - in the garage and takes a ride into the nearby town. At the local pizzeria he sees Owen (Sam Rockwell) busily playing Pacman on an old videogame machine. After watching for a bit, Duncan mentions that there's a trick to the game - a pattern to follow that'd make it a lot easier. Owen looks at Duncan like he's crazy. "What fun is that?" Owen retorts. "Just following a pattern?" Before he can finish his game though, Owen, who it turns out owns the local water park - the Water Wizz - gets called back to work. He still has a life left on the game, so he asks Duncan to finish up. But as Owen leaves, he calls back mock-imperiously "No pattern on _my_ quarter! Cut your own pattern!" Which tells us everything we need to know about Owen and how different he is from Trent, something that Duncan immediately picks up on.

The next day, Duncan goes to the Water Wizz, partly out of curiosity but mainly to get away from the beach house. The scene when Owen comes across Duncan sitting by himself on a bench is priceless:

Owen (deadpan serious): "I'm afraid I'm gonna have to ask you to leave."
Duncan (startled): "What?"
Owen: (still deadpan): "You're having way to much fun. It's making everyone uncomfortable."
Duncan (dejected, getting up to go): "Okay."
Owen (dropping the act when he realizes that Duncan is taking him seriously): "Wow! I was just kidding! And that wasn't even my best stuff!"

Before Duncan knows it, Owen takes him under his wing and gives him a job helping out at the Water Wizz, giving him both a place to escape to during the day and, more importantly, a place people just accept him as he is. This is the kind of summer job we all wish we had when we were kids (well, all of us who aren't future Trent's anyway). Given his first real taste of both acceptance and responsibility, Duncan blossoms in the easy-going environment, and for the first time we actually see him happy.

It's hard to say enough about the superb cast and the spot-on performances they bring. Liam James (The Killing, Psych) does a marvelous job of bringing out Duncan's coming of age, growing over the course of the film from being withdrawn and uncertain to growing in self-identity and confidence as he confronts the unpleasant realities that his mother is unwilling to face. Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine and The United States of Tara) is particularly moving as Duncan's mom, Pam, struggling to deal with being divorced, with raising a teenaged son and with her fear of being alone, and knowing that she's not doing all that good a job at any of it. Steve Carell, well-known from his many, many comedic roles, turns in a highly effective straight-laced performance as Trent, bringing out the character's manipulative and frequently demeaning nature in both subtle and not-so-subtle ways. Allison Janney (The West Wing)'s Betty is a nice turn as a kind of simpatico counterpoint to Pam, being another divorced mother with kids, trying to do her best and dealing with the same struggles, albeit with a fair amount of drinking, a performance at once both comic and sympathetic. Maya Rudolph (Bridesmaids, Saturday Night Live and Up All Night) is solid as Owen's patient but reaching-her-limits girlfriend, Caitlin. AnnaSophia Robb (Bridge to Terabithia, Soul Surfer) is perfect as Susanna, Duncan's companion in summer-vacation misery and the girl who (after several tries) gets Duncan to open up some. River Alexander has some choice comic moments as Susanna's younger brother, Peter, who's desperate to escape their well-meaning but trying-too-hard mom. And writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash bring good-natured comradery as Roddy and Lewis, veteran employees of Water Wizz, the water park where Duncan ends up working. But it's Sam Rockwell who gives The Way, Way Back a lot of its comic heart as Owen, the laid-back cracking-wise owner of the water park who ends up taking Duncan under his wing and giving him his first tastes of independence, of responsibility, and most importantly of acceptance for simply being who he is and not expecting him to be anything other than that.

The screenplay is extremely well done, with a nice even flow and natural believable dialogue that gives depth and development to all of the characters, and is, I feel, worthy of a Best Original Screenplay nomination come Oscar time. According to an interview, Jim Rash said that the main inspiration for the story was really the opening scene between Duncan and Trent, which was based on a similar conversation he had with his own stepfather when he himself was 14.

There is also an interesting story behind how the film ended up with the title The Way, Way Back. When the script was actually written back in 2007, the original title was The Way Back, which was easily understood given the themes of the film and the way in which it ends. However, by the time the project was green-lit for actual production, another film with the title The Way Back had just come out in 2010. So partly to avoid confusion with that film, and partly as a kind of inside joke, Faxon and Rash changed the name of their film to The Way, Way Back.

And on a last note of trivia, the Water Wizz is an actual water park in Massachusetts. Everything you see in the Water Wizz scenes - including the staff uniforms - is part of the water park, and most of the extras are locals who actually go there. A nice touch of reality that really adds to the realistic feel of the film.

Highly, highly recommended.
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VINE VOICEon July 24, 2013
The Way Way Back is a follow up to The Descendants for writer/director pair Nat Faxon and Jim Rash that premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. It is a coming of age film focused on an awkward teenager named Duncan (Liam Jones) who has been forced on a vacation with his mother and her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell). The relationship between Duncan and Trent is uneasy to say the very least. The film opens with Trent telling Duncan that, on a scale of 1 to 10, Duncan is a 3. Duncan wishes he could be with his father, all while he continues to become more and more disgusted with his mother's choice in Trent. From their summer beach house he finds a bicycle and makes his way to Water Wizz, a local water park built during the 1980s, and run by Owen (Sam Rockwell) and his girlfriend Caitlyn (Maya Rudolph). At Water Wizz Duncan finds a place where he belongs as his family life continues to devolve back at the beach house.

When The Way, Way Back is centered on the story of a boy living in a divorced family and dealing with his mother's new boyfriend The Way, Way Back is a spot on, honest movie about a teenager growing up in a divided family. The material at Water Wizz is also enjoyable. The Way, Way Back does have weaknesses in deriving humor froma generic, disobedient teenage girl (Trent's daughter) and setting up a sort of romance between Duncan and the girl next store which is essentially the same romance you see in every other coming of age movie.

Occasionally hard to sit through due to the overwhelming awkwardness of the situations, one cannot penalize The Way Way Back for its accuracy. The moments watching 14 year old Duncan respond to his mother and Trent are incredibly genuine and do set the film apart. It is a rough subject matter to address in film, but it is done well here and is in no way sugar coated.

The acting is, like the plot, down to earth. All the characters are believable. Steve Carell is an unlikable character, and we are not meant to support him, but the character of Trent does exist as a human being. The most eccentric role (not to mention, most entertaining) is Sam Rockwell's Owen, but even then we're left with a character who one could easily imagine meeting at a water park.

Despite some missteps, and coming of age clichés, The Way, Way Back sells itself on its honesty. Although it doesn't manage to break new ground it is different enough to recommend it to viewers who are willing to sit through it. If you lived through a divorce as a child the film could either be a tear jerker or it could be a trigger you'd rather not sit through. From my point of view, it was worth sitting through even with the harsh memories it dug up. If you're looking for an honest, sometimes humorous, often times serious look at a teen living in a post-divorce family then you should give The Way, Way Back a watch.
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on October 5, 2013
'The Way Way Back' is really great movie which is both hysterically funny and deeply heartwarming. It tells the story of Duncan (portrayed by Liam James) and his mother Pam (portrayed by Toni Collette) as they go on a summer vacation with Pam's boyfriend Trent (portrayed by Steve Carell) and his daughter Steph. Duncan is quiet and shy and evidently not enamored with his mom's boyfriend. The summer vacation is filled with a lot of adult fun, but Duncan seems to be forgotten in the whole thing, until he finds a place to fit in at a local waterpark, where he meets Owen (portrayed by Sam Rockwell).

The movie is filled with hysterical performances by Alison Janney and Sam Rockwell, and it also has a very serious side as it examines the difficult family dynamic between the main characters. There are several secondary stories which tie nicely into the main story as well. The story is complemented by a great soundtrack, which has an eclectic mix of songs.

Overall, after seeing this movie, you might feel it is a bit formulaic and sappy, but it isn't. The combination of the very funny dialogue and the serious and heartwarming story of Duncan makes this movie a very fun one to watch. You will walk away satisfied, both from laughter and probably a few tears as well.

This one's well worth your time and whatever you spend to see it. And as if what I've written above isn't enough, I'm buying the DVD as well!
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on August 28, 2013
This was surprisingly a really good movie. We laughed and cried. My husband even liked it, though he didn't cry. One of the best movies I have seen all year and a welcome relief from all of the superhero/action flicks that we are bombarded with. Left the theater smiling.
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A new star is born! Liam James, who plays Duncan, a 14 year old boy in this coming of age film. What a performance he gives, as a more than awkward kid, going on vacation with his newly divorced mom and new boyfriend. Mom, played by Toni Collette, is a meek woman, devastated by a divorce and allows her new boyfriend, played by Steve Carrell, to walk all over her, and her son, Duncan.

They arrive at the summer house of the boyfriend, and Duncan knows what he is up against in the snarky, mean boyfriend. He has rated Duncan a 3 out of 10, and expects Duncan to move up. Duncan, trying to avoid the boyfriend, rides off everyday on an old used bicycle, to the sumner water sports arena. He is befriended by Owen, a 30 something guy pretending he visit a teenager. Owen gives Duncan a job, and his life improves at work. At home, mom is still meek and mild, suspecting her boyfriend is cheating, but too afraid to say anything.

The next door boozed up lady, played by Alison Janney has a daughter who Duncan likes and they strike up a friendship. The summer moves on until trouble erupts between boyfriend and mom. Things left unsaid and emotions come to the fore, Boyfriend, Trent, is one of those men with no redeeming qualities, picking on others to make himself look good. Duncan, learns to be a man and comes out of his shell. A long miserable summer has turned into lessons on living.

Recommended. prisrob 12-08-13
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I learned a lot watching this wonderful movie: 1. I learned that America's nicest guy, Steve Carrell, can actually act like America's biggest jerk, 2. I learned that Sam Rockwell, who rarely if ever gets to play a lead role, is absolutely good enough to win an Academy Award, 3. I learned who Liam James is, he did play the lead role of a 14 year old boy,

This movie is told from the viewpoint of 14 year old Duncan who is taken on a family vacation for the summer with his mom's ("Pam"-Toni Collette) jerk of a boyfriend ("Trent"-Steve Carrell) and his daughter, who could not be more glum. On the car ride to the summer house, Trent tells Duncan that on a scale of 1 to 10, he thinks Duncan is a 3. That gives you an idea what kind of summer Duncan is in for, at least until he meets Sam Rockwell's "Owen" who is HILARIOUS and works at the local water park! Whoever wrote the dialogue for Owen also deserves an Academy Award (I can't believe I am saying things like this!!!). Duncan gets a job at the water park which changes his view of life over the course of the summer...for the better, thank goodness. The cast is amazing with Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph, AnnaSophia Robb, Amanda Peet and more. I wasn't expecting this movie to be THIS GOOD. What a FUN surprise! I highly recommend it!!!
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I had seen the trailer for this movie a number of times in recent weeks at my local art-house theatre here in Cincinnati and couldn't wait to see this movie. The movie finally opened today, and I went to see it right away.

"The Way, Way Back" (2013 release; 103 min.) tells the story of 14 yr. old Duncan (played by newcomer Liam James) who, along with his mom Pam (played by Toni Collette), her boyfriend Trent (played by Steve Carell) and his 16 or 17 yr. old daughter Stephanie, are going to spend the summer at Trent's summer house on a beach somewhere in Massachusetts. Right as the movie opens, Trent and Duncan get into an already destined-to-be-a-classic exchange: Trent: "On a scale of 1 to 10, how do you see yourself?"; Duncan: "a 6"; Trent: "a 6? more like a 3... Let's try and get that score up this summer!". Duncan has a hard time fitting in with anyone but he does seem to be able to talk to Suzanna, the neighbor's daughter who's just a bit older than him. Duncan then strikes gold when he is able to get a job at the local water amusement park (called Water Wizz, which in fact does exist in real life under that name) and gets taken under the wings of the park's manager Owen (played by Sam Rockwell). It doesn't mean that all is well, though. But to tell you more of the plot would surely ruin your viewing experience, you'll just have to see for yourself how it all plays out.

Several comments: first, this is yet another coming-of-age movie in the last several month's, after "Mud" and "The Kings of Summer", yet this one clearly stands apart from the previous two, both in its bitter-sweet tone, and its depth. Second, this movie is a labor of love for writers-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (they also have a small acting part in the movie), as they have been trying to make this movie for years (winning an Oscar for best screenwriting for "The Descendants" a few years ago finally got them on track for this movie). Third, the movie is a nice study of how people, both young and adults, adjust to new situations (following divorce). Most of the immediate families we get to know in the movie comprise of single moms, either with or without a new husband or boyfriend. Fourth, the movie just oozes great acting performances, none more so that from Liam James as the awkward teenager who is flailing his arms about as he is trying go get comfortable with himself and those around him. And what about Steve Carell, who is cast against type, in a role 180 degrees away from the likeable guy he usually plays. Here he plays a jerk whom you'd like to slap in the face and yell "look at all the hurt you're causing to people you supposedly love". Carell pulls it off brilliantly. Other notables include Maya Rudolph (as one of the waterpark managers), and Allison Janney as Betty, the loud and possible alcoholic neighbor. She is as outrageous as she is funny. Last but not least, the movie features a great soundtrack (which is available on CD) with tracks from indie-artists like Edie Brickell, Wild Belle, and Ben Kweller, just to name those. (There are also several 80s hits from Mr. Mister, INXS, etc.)

When doing a coming-of-age movie like this, there is a thin line between bitter-sweet/moving and overly sentimental. This movie never gets too sentimental. Instead, the directors bring what feels like a very authentic, even if fictional, story about young adults fitting in and also broken families. I'll admit that I was pretty much choking up the last 15-20 min. of the movie. The screening I saw this at today was very well attended, and this movie seems to have all the makings of a hit movie on the art-house theatre circuit. If it wasn't clear enough by now, "The Way, Way Back" is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED!
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on October 10, 2013
I saw this among all the oscar nominated films and this was by far the best. I've gone to dozens of movies since then I keep referring to this as the best movie I've seen in a while. It's OK if it's a recipe that's been done before because it works, you care and feel involved in their lives. When a movie does that, it's a success.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon January 6, 2015
Possible Spoilers

This is pretty much a coming-of-age narrative, which manages to refresh an already crowded genre.

The film opens at the end of a road trip to their holiday let for the summer; our main protagonist is Duncan his family comprises of his single mother Pam, her arrogant boyfriend Trent and his, not so nice, teenage daughter. Meanwhile Duncan is relegated to the rear of the car– way, way back. On first meeting Duncan, he is melancholy, distant 14-year-old Duncan (played aptly by Liam James). On the way to the beach house, Trent emotionally belittles Duncan, often making remarks and gestures that are demeaning and offensive to him. Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of one to ten, and tells Duncan he thinks Duncan is a three – thus begins their summer vacation: what could go wrong?

As Duncan emerges out of his ’shell’ he is befriended by Owen (Sam Rockwell) as the narrative moves on Duncan finds consolation in a clandestine summer job at Water Whiz, mentored by Sam Rockwell's jesting manager and an assortment of oddball employees.

This is a quirky film with some pretty good lines given over to the Sam Rockwell character. The cast performances across the board, by and large are good, however, the character of Rash as the camp Lewis, the kiosk attendant with no customers and no prospects of escape – is a real scene-stealer. This film is witty, hopeful, sentimental and enjoyable – It is sad to say I came across this little gem while channel surfing.
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on December 20, 2013
The Way, Way Back - I am not ordinarily drawn to Steve Carell, but his movie was very good. If you liked Stand By Me, another coming of age movie about middle school boys, you will like this movie. The men in our family would rate it 5 stars because they identified with so much of the story. It is surely worth renting, if not purchasing.
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