The trailer for this did not deliver an especially mouth watering premise – a young boy growing up isn’t understood by his parents and he is forced to turn to the fast cracking comedy schtick of Sam Rockwell to find both a friend and a vague sort of father figure. A film like this gets released on a fairly regular basis, and there was little to suggest this was anything other than a standard and predictable coming of age drama, nor were my immediate sympathies with the protagonist who seemed to be a movie version of a troubled teenager, sporting relatively perfect hair and skin – one can’t help but think a British/realistic version would feature some poor young acne ridden soul with pulsating pustules of pus obscuring his vision and his face turning an explosive vermillion whenever a girl so much as looks in his direction. Magically, the film had genuine moments where I’d be surprised if there existed a single person sitting in the auditorium without a smile on their face, or indeed who didn’t feel the same level of empathy with the characters during their more negative travails, and this achievement alone garnered the movie peals of genuine applause come the end.
Liam James plays the central character of Duncan, who is dragged to Cape Cod (the large Massachusetts peninsula that juts out eastward into the Atlantic) in order to spend some ‘quality’ time with his mother, stepfather and stepsister. All hope is not lost though, as he discovers the impossibly cute girl next door Susanna, played by AnnaSophia Robb (‘Bridge to Terabithia’ 07), who prefers reading books and the pleasure of her own company to that of the more shallow girls in town. The adults do a fantastic job of being conceited twats to Duncan, who is shown to be quiet, shy and unsure of himself but by no means weak as he elects to cycle a pink bike around town of his own accord, which in itself takes a certain measure of courage, and then under his own steam he finds himself a job at the local aqua park – an occupation he keeps secret from his family who are preoccupied with themselves and their own internal drama.
Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Allison Janney, Rob Corddry and Amanda Peet play the adults Duncan is surrounded by at home, whilst Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell appear as his co-workers and friends. Janney and Rockwell’s characters are often used in much the same way by the narrative for quick fire comic relief, which does work but is a tad overdone, but other than that this is a well acted, great little film. I’m tempted to draw parallels with last year’s indie hit ‘Silver Linings Playbook’ as another movie where everything combined really well together, but will this one find its way to the Oscars ..? It’s also the directorial debut of Nat Faxon, pictured at the far left above, and Jim Rash, who plays the ‘determined to leave his job’ Lewis at the aqua park. An impressive first time behind the camera from the veteran actors, who also co-wrote the screenplay and each share a best adapted screenplay Oscar with Alexander Payne for 2011’s ‘The Descendants’.
Careful not to confuse the title with Peter Weir’s 2010 film ‘The Way Back’, nor indeed Emilio Esteves’ ‘The Way’ from the same year.