When I first heard about a little film called The Descendants, I was kind of excited due to Alexander Payne helming the ship. He’s responsible for bringing a handful of gems to the screen (Sideways, About Schmidt, Election), each one toting a touch of melancholy with it in a way that balances the humour and gives it (at least for me) a sense of realism that is missing from many Hollywood comedies. The Descendants was no exception but one thing that this film brought to the table was the writing team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash. You may have seen Nat Faxon hanging out with the Broken Lizard team (Slammin’ Salmon, Beerfest, Club Dread) and you may know Jim Rash as the Dean of questionable sexual orientation from TV’s Community. The Descendants got them both a little acclaim and an award or two for their writing. In their follow-up effort the pair share directorial duties and the result is the film The Way Way Back.
It’s a coming-of-age story about Duncan who’s been pulled along against his will to a beach holiday house with his sister, mother Pam (Toni Collette) and her new boyfriend Trent (Steve Carrell). Here they’ll spend the Summer with Trent’s friend’s families. Trent tries to make an effort with Duncan but fails because he’s an ass and quite obviously doesn’t actually like Duncan’s quiet and introverted ways.
A chance meeting over a game of Pac-Man with Owen (Sam Rockwell) leads Duncan to getting a job at the water park where Owen plans to get Duncan out of his shell and live a little.
This movie is a feel-good movie essentially and although touching upon the futile melancholy of real life and related themes, doesn’t dwell there long enough for you to want to kill yourself at the end (which is what I’ve had people tell me they’ve wanted to do at the end of Alexander Payne films).
Go along for the Ride. Carrell is believably egotistical; Collette plays the part of someone barely holding it together to a T and Rockwell… well, rocks. Rash and Faxon both have entertaining bit parts and all the kids in this film play it perfectly with a special shout out to Liam James as the wonderfully awkward Duncan.