“It’s like spring break for adults.”
Once you’re driving along the 6 en route to Cape Cod all aspects of real life seem to magically disappear. The tunnel of trees leading up to all the beaches and goodness the Cape has to offer, well, it’s no wonder why hundreds of thousands retreat there every year. But not so much when you’re a teenage kid forced to tag along with your mom’s dickhead boyfriend (and his daughter) to his beach house for the summer. In this case, Cape Cod can seem like a dark, dark place (like, SUPER dark!).
And when we abruptly enter Duncan’s (Liam James) car ride to the east, you get a sense of the hating-the-mom’s-new boyfriend thing right away. Duncan, being on the shyer side, doesn’t really feel like talking. The poor kid’s supposed to be in California with his dad for christ’s sake, so when Trent (Steve Carell) antagonistically asks Duncan “on a scale of 1 to 10 what do you think you are?”, and Duncan responds “6,” Trent disagrees, saying he thinks he’s a “3”—setting up just how terrible this trip was going to be for Duncan (and his mom, Pam—Toni Collette—doesn’t even stick up for him!).
Arriving at Trent’s cottage his neighbors excitingly greet him—my favorite: the annoyingly lovable and crazy Betty (Allison Janney)—whose presence really adds a great touch to the movie. You can tell they’ve all known each other for years, and Duncan’s mom is sort of out of the loop in regard to this part of Trent’s life. ESPECIALLY the odd couple Joan and Kip (they LOVE to drink and tell stories!), who, Pam secretly loathes.
After about 24 hours Duncan has lost any hope in Cape Cod and his chance to enjoy summer, but when he finds a stranded bike (it’s… um… pink) he sets off on his own adventure. Winding up at some arcade, an older local Owen (Sam Rockwell) gives up his game of PACMAN to Duncan before ditching out with his buddies. This wouldn’t be the last of their encounters, however. Oh no. The very next day Duncan ventures off again, this time ending up at the Water Wizz (yes, it’s actually a real water park.) Owen picks up on Duncan’s situation and invites him to join the crew: him, Roddy (Nat Faxon), Caitlin (Maya Rudolph), and Lewis (Jim Rash), to name a few. Owen takes Duncan under his wing, showing him all the Water Wiz tricks of the trade. And surprisingly, at the Water Wiz, Duncan’s actually cool (let’s just say he ends up breakdancing in front of a bunch of kids one day.)
Betty’s rebel daughter Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb) curiously wonders where it is that he disappears to every day (after forming a minor crush after she sneakily overhears him belt out some REO Speedwagon atop Frank’s Volvo, because, how adorable, right?). She decides to follow him one day, revealing his secret sanctuary—showing a side of Duncan that didn’t exist on that painful car ride there.
Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s (the same guys who brought you The Descendants) The Way Way Back is as real (and funny!) as it gets. Sam Rockwell will undoubtedly make you fall in love with him and his silly antics (also: one-liners!). In throughout the whole movie I’m not going to lie and say you won’t be frustrated with Duncan at times, ESPECIALLY when he repeatedly passes up his chances with Susanna, but you’ll definitely leave the theater wishing you had 10 or 15 more minutes of everyone. I didn’t want this one to end, but luckily it’s one of those you’d want see again (and again…).
(photo via Lost in Reviews & The Way Way Back)