Saturday, 31 August 2013

REVIEW - THE WAY WAY BACK


Not a 'dramedy,' but a drama and a comedy duking it out for superiority. The comedy wins, or at least it ought to. The Way Way Back is a tremendously funny film, sometimes. Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell wander in from a different film, sporadically, and transform an inert teen coming-of-age movie into a sweet, sparkling, vivacious, lively jaunt. They barely pause for breath as they spew some of the finest repartee in film all year, combining sharp, cheeky humour with a grounding in strong, stable character that makes their work addictive viewing. The quality of the comedy in The Way Way Back is so high that it affects your mood throughout the film, even as it becomes ever drier and more formulaic. An affinity with these people (at least the sympathetic ones among them) is developed, though that's at the expense of equity. There are heroes, victims and villains in Nat Faxon and Jim Rash's screenplay. Their narrative arcs (excuse me for a moment while I barf profusely at having used that phrase) are concerned less with whom they become than whom they have been. Only protagonist Duncan (Liam James, if you believe that, cos it's actually Liam Payne in hiding) experiences any meaningful change in his person - the others are merely there to facilitate his maturation. Faxon and Rash aren't too sober in depicting this, though, and encourage us to engage in a bit of fun-poking from time to time. If some of this is much too staged to be successful, they mostly get away with it, due to the aforementioned quality of the comedy. And it does cause you to forgive The Way Way Back's mediocrity in other arenas. Steve Carell is great as the world's most infuriatingly passive-aggressive stepdad-in-waiting, and Toni Collette is once again woefully underused.