Saturday, August 13, 2016

The Way, Way Back (2013)

Writers/Directors: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (also co-wrote "The Descandents")
Sound Editing/Mixing: Rob Simonsen

Duncan- Liam James
Pam- Toni Collette
Trent- Steve Carell
Betty- Allison Janney
Kip- Rob Corddry
Steph- Zoe Levin
Peter-  River Alexander
AnnaSophia Robb- Susanna

Joan- Amanda Peet
Owen- Sam Rockwell
Caitlin- Maya Rudolph


I think I first heard about this movie on Reelz channel. Leonard Maltin or Richard Roeper said it was one of the best films to come out in the upcoming summer. I remember seeing commercials for it when it was getting critical acclaim at the Sundance Film Festival.
Then I watched it for the heck of it one night when it premiered on HBO. First because of the props and second because Steve Carell was in it.
Little did I know how terrible a character he was playing. One of the biggest jerks I've come across in recent memory... more on that later.

Summertime Comparisons

This area runs a little long, so feel free to scroll to the 2nd spoiler alert banner
In all likelihood, this is going to become one of my summer staples. The trick is getting the DVD so I can leave it at our shorehouse. So much time has passed since it came out that I could probably get it for cheap at Target or Wal-Mart.

Much like with "Fast Times at Ridgemont High [scroll to the way bottom for what I'm talking about here specifically]
I got the idea to review this movie because I heard a song from the movie and immediately thought of it.
That's an aspect of music I love so much- you hear a song and it automatically transports you to another place. And sometimes that's a movie where it's featured prominently or at least referenced in the dialogue.

The song in question: "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister
It's playing in the background and the actors are putting their own words to it. Steve Carell I think was the one who said it was "carry a laser."
I remember looking it up myself and I had no idea what the words were.

Here's the chorus, in case anyone cares and wants to save themselves the Google search:

"Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I'm going will you follow
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light"

Apparently the first two words is Greek for "Love, have mercy."
You learn something new every day.

As for the whole comparison bit...

I guess you could say that this movie has a lot of similarities to "Adventureland," which stars Jesse Eisenberg, Kristen Stewart and Ryan Reynolds. Both take place in summertime and the characters are working at a theme park.
Ok, maybe just those two similarities. It's not a coming-of-age story because Jesse Eisenberg seems well established as a person. And working at the theme park is equivalent to purgatory for him. He'd just graduated and was planning on going to college, but his parents spent all the money he/they saved up... so he needs to take a summer job.

The main difference between the two: this one is way better.
"Adventureland" loses its way when it gets to the third act. Most of it is the fault of Kristen Stewart's story arc.
unrelated SPOILERS

She gets a raw deal from a lot of people over "Twilight" and the fact she cheated on Edward Cullen [yeah, WTF happened to Robert Pattinson?] with the "Snow White and the Huntsmen" director. People have picked her acting apart for years following those movies.
While I DO NOT understand why her character had to be involved with Ryan Reynold's [it's icky- she's practically a teenager and he's a married adult], I feel bad for her character and how she feels out of place in her family. Her step-mom is such a bitch.
And the ending was kinda... blah... didn't do a whole lot for me and it felt thrown in at the last minute.

Also, both movies have memorable moments involving 80's music.
"New Sensation" by INXS is another from this one that I recall.
Meanwhile, "Adventureland" had a lot more songs (apparently it takes place in 1987 despite all the anachronisms) including "Obsession" by Animotion and ...

"Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus
Amadeus, Amadeus, Amadeus
Amadeus, Amadeus, oh, oh, oh Amadeus"

and this exchange to follow:
James: Jesus F***ing Christ! They play this song like 20 times a day!
Joel: F***ing Sadistsl F***ing Sadists!


ok, I'm done talking about unrelated movies. Maybe the next time I see "Adventureland," I'll give it its own review. It has its issues, of course, but I still enjoy it and its characters very much.
But for now, back to this movie.

By the way, here are the quotes about their "Kyrie" lyrics... and my bad, it wasn't Steve Carell. It was Allison Janney and Corddry.

Joan: Carry a laser down the road that I must travel!
Kip: Why would it be 'carry a laser'?
Joan: Because it's a song about outer space.

That dude plays such a jerk in this movie [I know, I already said that, but it's a valid point] that I shouldn't be giving him any more credit than he deserves... which is none.

I love Steve Carell, don't get me wrong. But movies like this... I guess I just prefer he does comedies because his dramatic roles aren't as fun to watch. You know, because they're all dramatic and shit...

The Story
FINALLY moving on... my apologies. I could edit all that out, but I want my creative process to be there. In fact, I'll just put a notation in the beginning that say to scroll down to this point.

The trailer includes the very first scene. And actually, the first time I saw the movie, I had to miss the first 10-15 minutes because I had to finish watching something else... I was kinda broken up about it. I hate watching movies mid-progress. I worry that I'm going to miss a crucial detail or I'm going to be lost.
[Goes to make a reference about catching "Purple Rain" halfway through and realizes that a future entry needs to address Prince's short-lived cinematic career... and by that I mean he only did 4 theatrical releases, all in the 80's, and one practically was a concert film]

Enough stalling!

The scene in question: Steve Carell asks our protagonist how he rates himself on a scale from 1 to 10. Duncan says he's a 6 and Steve Carell says he's a 3. Mainly because he lacks ambition, doesn't put himself out there and hangs around the house all the time.
Sure, he might have a point, but saying someone is a three is just mean. And who's he to say that? He's only the jerk his mom is dating. And even if they were married, he still had no right to be such a jerk to him.

Okay, I'm done Steve bashing... for now.

Duncan is a very withdrawn teenage boy that really doesn't know what to do with himself because he lacks self-esteem more than anything else.

I saw comments in the IMDB messageboards that made reference to this: why are all these types of roles done by guys?

[Personal rant and some unrelated SPOILERS... again, feel free to skip]
On the plus side, they had this characterization for Duncan without using childhood molestation as an explanation for it. I say this now because that plot device was used in "Perks of Being a Wallflower" and "Love Letters for the Dead." The latter has a female protagonist and that about ruined the story for me. Mainly because I am an introverted wallflower myself and I don't have that in my past.
I had pressure from my parents to succeed in school and [non-condescending] tempers flared the few times I was getting C's and D's [9th and 11th grade nearly killed me]. Also, kids were mean to me in elementary school and in high school, I didn't really succeed in making m/any friends. That's always been hard for me and I don't know why. Breaking the ice in of itself is terrifying and I feel like I can't add much to an ongoing conversation unless I REALLY know the subject matter. I'm 30 now and I still have social anxiety issues that I can't explain and have no real way of resolving other than practice makes perfect.

Makes me wonder sometimes if I'm borderline autistic or I need Xanax or a therapist to cut down my anxiety.
At least my temp job recently got an upgrade to full-time, so I have one less thing to worry about for a while.

... I'll make another note. I don't know what's with me today, honestly :P it's been a pretty good day for me, albeit an uneventful one in my case.
I didn't even think any of this when I was watching the movie the first time. And it would have made sense to do so... I was in a major rut with my unemployment status.

"The Way, Way Back" got its title: 1) because "The Way Back" was already taken and 2) it refers to the wayback seat of a station wagon, which Duncan was occupying at the start and end of the movie. But he's in a much different state of mind from start to finish, which we get to see unfold.

He's going with his mom, his mom's jerkish boyfriend and his daughter, Steph, to his summer home upstate that's nextdoor to his sister... my bad, it's not his sister. They're just neighbors.
I feel like the worst person that could write for this movie. I forget all these details.

Anyway, Allison Janney's character almost reads like an audition for her current role on "Mom" where she's an alcoholic. Except she's far less apologetic in "Mom"... which I'd barely seen, so I really shouldn't comment.
She has a son and daughter. Peter wear an eye patch because his eyes are cross he has a lazy eye. And Susannah kinda becomes Duncan's love interest, but the romance gets to a VERY slow start due to his sheer awkwardness.
There's a cute scene (which I only just remembering searching for that "Kyrie" quote) where he's singing some REO Speedwagon ("Can't Fight This Feeling"), she catches him, he dismisses it as something from his mom and she jokes that he practically screamed it at the top of his lungs just for the hell of it.

Zoe Levin plays Steph and her role, I could say a similar thing about. That it was practically an audition for her character in "Red Band Society"- except she has a little more character development in the latter.
Sometimes, I REALLY miss that show. It really deserved a 2nd season. And a 3rd and so on...

One day, he decides to get out of the house and ends up meeting Owen (Sam Rockwell) at a local dive. They immediately develop a rapport over a Pac-Man machine. Duncan says "you know there's a pattern, right?" and Owen dismisses him, saying that he needs to make his own pattern.
He sees that he's wearing a T-shirt that has the name of a local theme park, so he goes there another day to find him again. He winds up getting a job there and really finds himself as a person.
So many cute scenes where Owen is teaching him the ropes and in trying to put a stop to a break-dance party, he gains a reputation and a cool nickname. I think it's Back Slide?
I'm sorry, I'm so bad at remembering this movie :P

Mainly because Sam Rockwell practically STEALS the show for me in the best possible way. I didn't think too much of him after "Iron-Man 2" (I SO wanted him to be collateral damage in that movie- payback for being such a jerk).
He has a wicked sense of humor, some I think was even improvised. And he's also very good to Duncan. He really seems to care about him and gives him so much good advice.
I actually spent a great amount of this movie hoping and PRAYING that there wouldn't be this great reveal later on where Owen is revealed to be a bad person or he does something really bad to tarnish everything Duncan and I liked about him.
THANKFULLY, that was not the case. But you have to admit- movies do that so often that it's cliché at this point.

And Owen has a cute love-hate relationship with Maya Rudolph's character. She can be really over the top on SNL and stuff, but here, she was a little more serious and heartfelt. So that was really nice to see. [And the fact she loves Prince as I do doesn't hurt either]

At least Duncan gets the courage to finally speak his mind to Trent (Steve Carell) and also lets his mom know what he thinks of him. This is coupled with the fact Trent is having an affair with one of the neighbors.
The ending of this movie where Duncan reveals what he's been doing all summer and his mom meets "[his] friend Owen"... it's one of the best pay-offs you will ever see in movies. It's really nice to see it when the bullied and downtrodden find confidence and get acceptance from their peers or families.

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