Posted by Julia Mahony
This weekend the Saratoga Film Forum will be screening Nat Fox's and Jim Rash's "The Way, Way Back." The show times are 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Friday, and Sunday. Admission is just $5 for students with a valid Skidmore ID.
The movie takes place in a seemingly regular, small vacation town outside of Cape Cod, where fourteen-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is hastened to by his recently divorced mother Pam (Tony Collette). Duncan is forced to live in her crude boyfriend Trent's (Steve Carrell) summer house with his callous daughter (Zoe Levin). James, whose performance as an out-of-place early teen is so convincingly awkward that it is at times genuinely painful to watch his interaction, is a stand-out in this indie flick.
Coming-of-age stories are certainly not lacking on the big screen, but "The Way, Way back" manages to avoid clich??s in this well-tread genre. Rather than the teenagers being overtly irresponsible, we see the film's adults rapidly devolve via their indulgences.
As Pam's slow desertion of her son and Trent's cruelty towards him become too much to handle, Duncan is forced to search for a place of solace. He finds this in the local water park, with the droll moniker "Water Wizz." There, Duncan meets a distinct cast of characters led by the eternally boyish Owen (Sam Rockwell). Though Owen is not the most overtly mature of adults, he is the only father figure Duncan has. Under Owen's guidance, Duncan begins to actually have a good time, while creating a surrogate family for himself.
In addition to the staff of the Wizz, Duncan is shown some kindness by Trent's bawdy neighbor Betty (Allison Janney) and her two children, Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) and Peter (River Alexander). Whether Betty is lovingly teasing her son about his lazy eye, or drunkenly conversing with her neighbors, Janney's comical performance is a scene-stealer. Susanna is the only kid of Duncan's age that he befriends. Their friendship allows for the possibility of romance, but is not the focal point of the film.
"The Way, Way Back" travels to previously unexplored territory as it tells the story of a boy surrounded by desperate adults drinking away their sorrows and emotions, and his attempt to find a place of belonging.