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OPINION: Friday’s Film Forecast

This week’s forecast calls for ‘The Way, Way Back’

Digital art creation of Duncan, the lead in “The Way, Way Back” placed in front of a sun. Liam James plays Duncan in Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s 2013 film. // Illustration by Elaina Johnson

Hey readers! I’m back with your Friday Film Forecast. This week I’ll be talking about Nat Faxon and Jim Rash’s 2013 film, “The Way, Way Back.” With warm days approaching, this movie gets you in the mood for a cliche American summer — complete with backyard barbeques, beaches and newfound friends. 

I looked forward to this movie because of the stacked cast. Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Sam Rockwell all gave enjoyable performances. All are talented actors but shone especially bright in this movie with their great chemistry and commitment to their characters.

In addition to the veteran cast, the film’s lead, Duncan, is played by a teenage Liam James, who was still starting his acting career at the time. He portrays a shy, sad loner that left me wanting to give him a hug and assure him that it’s gonna be okay. Jame’s age at the time made his character feel more authentic.

The script is well written, with a smooth and coherent flow that balances many tones. The incredible writing is no surprise with the directors and writers, Faxton and Rash, having won an Academy Award for screenwriting the previous year for “The Descendants.”

The story is about Duncan and his mom, Pam, tagging along with Pam’s boyfriend — who is best described by many curse words I cannot say here — and his angsty teenage daughter to their summer home in a lonely beach town.

Pam’s boyfriend, Trent, is the worst part of this movie. He is emotionally manipulative toward Pam and insults Duncan the entire film. His most notable insult is calling Duncan a three out of ten, which sets up a cathartic line at the end that you’ll have to see for yourself.

Although his character is extremely frustrating to watch, he keeps you engaged with the plot and is evidence of good writing presented through conflict. 

Duncan runs away from home one day after an infuriating interaction with Trent and stumbles upon a pizza shop where a man — Sam Rockwell’s character, Owen — is playing Pacman in a water park staff jacket. When talking with Owen, Duncan misinterprets his sarcasm as sincere which left me laughing.

After interacting with Owen, Duncan begins to “run away” every day, but this time to the water park that was listed on Owen’s jacket. Eventually, he is given a job by Owen and they begin their new friendship, giving Duncan a glimpse of happiness in his bummer of a summer. 

With the happiness that Duncan gains as he works daily at the park, back at the beach house, his mom's life is falling apart. Suspicious of Trent cheating and unhappy in her relationship as a whole, Pam stays silent as Trent emotionally abuses her and her son.

Pam’s character, in my opinion, is the most complex of every character in this film. She made me furious as she sat silently while Trent treated her son like less than human. But it’s being able to see her own unhappiness and fear that allows you to feel sympathetic for her — she humanizes parents, but from the perspective of a child, angers you for not being a mom for Duncan.

I’d like to give a bonus shoutout to Janney’s performance as the nosey neighbor. Her character is tipsy most of the time and often behaves and talks inappropriately to the entire group of characters in the beach town. Although her dialogue is often insensitive, it offers a few shock-caused laughs.

The movie is full of wonderful character development and keeps you engaged the whole time. With an incredibly satisfying ending, this week's film forecast calls for a sunny rating of five stars.

“The Way, Way Back” is currently available to rent on Amazon.

Elaina Johnson

Elaina Johnson (she/her) is a fourth-year political science major who has previously copy edited and been editor-in-chief for The Front. This quarter she is the opinions and outreach editor. She hopes to make engaging stories this quarter and reconnect with the community through various outreach. In her free time outside of The Front, she can be found watching movies, writing chaotic Letterboxd reviews and drinking oat milk chai. She can be reached at 

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