Duncan Is A Lonely Boy





The Way, Way Back
Stars: Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Liam James, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph and Zoe Levin
Director/Writers: Nat Faxon and Jim Rash
Fox Searchlight
Rating: PG 13
Running Length: 103 minutes
Coming-of-age is serious business. There is usually a film a month dealing with this topic, and some are serious while others are humorous. In Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s script, teenage Duncan (Liam James) has learned to be in the background so much, it is a natural part for him. His mother (Toni Collette) has always taken center stage. Duncan is in the awkward stage of gangly legs, somewhat manners and admiring girls from afar----way afar. So when Mom meets a new man and he gravitates himself into her affections, Duncan takes notice, and it isn't good. The guy, Trent (Steve Carell with a husky build and two-day-old beard look) is a sarcastic, controlling person. What to do next?
This encompasses the plot of the movie. The film begins with Duncan and his Mom, plus Trent and his teenage daughter, Steph (Zoe Levin) going to spend the summer at Trent’s ocean-side home.  Not as elegant as you might think, but it is by a beach and the neighbors have known each other for years. Dragging those large feet, Duncan comes along, sitting by himself in the back of the classiest station wagon Buick ever made. Trent’s remarks to Duncan go right over Mom’s head and in desperation from this “family” and the kooky neighbors (Alison Janney and her lazy-eyed son played by River Alexander), Duncan finds an old bicycle and freedom! He discovers the local water park, Water Wizz, and comes under the influence of one of the workers, an over-the-top lazy guy named Owen (Sam Rockwell), who takes Duncan under his wing and starts to bring him into manhood. You can tell that Owen was once a Duncan and doesn't want this boy to follow his footsteps. Giving the kid a job at the park helps Duncan earn money, meet girls, and develop his own personality and pride, something that is lacking at home. There are adventures along the way from keeping a low profile at home to meeting a girl, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb looking just like Hayden Panettiere), keeping the park cleaner than Owen and trying to keep a secret about Trent. 
“The Way Way Back” could have been a formula film with predictable situations, but the cast at the water park, lead by Maya Rudolph as the manager, gives ensemble work special meaning. Just when Duncan is having a rough time, we go to the water park and see everyone’s antics and why the neighborhood kids like to go there so much. It becomes a family for Duncan, who really has no where else go to escape from nosey neighbors and Trent. Some of the water situations reminded me of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days”, but at Water Wizz, they were a step up in style.
Steve Carell’s “Trent” is a husky man who rules with his mouth and carefully thought out sarcastic remarks. The only person he seems to get along with is his teenage daughter. Toni Collette, as Duncan’s Mom seems miscast here and definitely fades away in scenes with Carell. Young star, Liam James, begins as awkward and ends up mature and able to speak for himself. This is well played. Allison Janney as the next-door neighbor is so shrill the waves would back away from the shore, yet, this fits the persona she projects as the over-protective mother. Sam Rockwell’s mouth goes a mile-a-minute and in-between words, you can detect a sadness about life that he is covering up. Rockwell just seems to know how to do it.
I was pleasantly surprised with “The Way Way Back.” The houses are older beachfront property and not new construction. The adults act like kids here while the kids try to act as adults. Somewhere in the middle, they manage to connect before the adults go chasing each other at night amid sand dunes and the kids sit and talk. Growing up is a difficult process and when your father has a new girlfriend, and Mom has a new boyfriend, Duncan could be a lonely boy until he comes to the beach.
Copyright 2013 Marie Asner

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