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Despite being predictable and overloaded with too familiar themes, The Way Way Back might just be one of the best summer movies. The film’s talented cast, well written script, and overall charisma deliver a noteworthy coming-of-age story. The Way Way Back premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival where it became one of the most financially successful films. Released on July 5, the film averaged $525,000 that weekend, which then allowed it to be added to 79 theaters in total. The film is considered a box office success after producing $4.6 million. So what is it that makes this movie so successful? Why does a coming-of-age story work so well in the summer?
Directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, The Way Way Back tells the story of 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) on a summer vacation with his mother Pam (Toni Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent’s daughter Katy (Ava Deluca-Verley) at a beach house. The audience quickly sees Duncan is struggling with both family issues and a sense of identity. To get away from the beach house, Duncan discovers a local water park that changes his life. Duncan quickly befriends the manager Owen (Sam Rockwell) and finally starts to feel like he’s fitting in. With the help of Owen and his coworkers, Duncan observes and learns about life, relationships, and how to survive his family. Duncan’s coming-of-age story mirrors the realistic ones that teenagers might have over the summer – first jobs, family problems, first kisses, and a sense of identity. The truth behind Duncan, his family, and friends are what make them so relatable and thusly makes the film a must-see of the summer.
The realistic story telling, whether it’s how Pam treats Duncan or how Duncan attempts his first kiss, provides the movie with bittersweet moments that allow the audience to become uncomfortably familiar with the personal moments being shown on screen. The film’s best moments are within the characterization, along with the reaction of the characters. The mixture of humor and sadness that overtones the movie provides a truthful representation of what summer means and how some of us are thankful when it’s over.
While there might not be anything new about the life lessons that are drilled into the movie, they are performed so earnestly that it makes the film worth watching.