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The Way, Way Back: Sam Rockwell is My Hero

July 18, 2013

The Way Way Back movie poster

While watching the Academy Awards two years ago I was shocked when Nat Faxon and Jim Rash walked up onto the stage with Alexander Payne to collect their much deserved screenplay Oscars. Over the last ten years I’ve watched and liked them in Club Dread, Beerfest, Community and Reno 911 so it was wonderful to see them succeed. They won the gold statues for The Descendants and Jim Rash immediately endeared himself to the American public.

84th Academy Awards

 A decade of hustling had ended as the doors finally opened for the duo. What would they do with their new fame and success? They decided to direct a film they wrote called The Way, Way Back. The 2006 script had gotten Hollywood’s attention (Payne hired them because of it), landed on the blacklist and was never green-lit. However, with the gold statue in hand they raised five million dollars, gathered a wonderful cast and proceeded to make one the best films of 2013.

Movies like The Way, Way Back are rare. It wasn’t churned out of Hollywood, isn’t a sequel and Steve Carrel plays a jerk. It has a finely tuned script loaded with realism, poignancy and laughs. Rash and Faxon drew from their life experiences to tell the story of what it is like to grow up gawky in a divorced family. The opening dialogue from the trailer actually happened to Rash as he sat in the way, way back of his families station wagon.


The Way, Way Back is the small snapshot of a kid who spends the summer with his Mom and her controlling boyfriend. The adults drink, the kids are unsupervised and bonds are formed. His mom is busy with the first man who pursued her and his dad isn’t available (married younger woman and lives across the country). So, it is up to him to learn life’s lessons. There will be bumps, bruises, first love and unfortunate nicknames like “Pop & Lock.” His salvation comes in the form of the ultra charismatic Sam Rockwell and a relic of a water park called Water Wizz. Rockwell is the manager of the old park and he makes it his mission to look after the gawky introvert. Together, they wax poetic, play Pac-Man and form an endearing father/son relationship.

Sidenote: Rockwell keeps up the wonderful tradition of showing off his wonderful dance moves.

The Way Way Back Sam Rockwell

The Way, Way Back is a gem because it shows that everybody has growing to do. It is never easy and age doesn’t matter because there is always something to learn. This film understands that and character growth never feels false or tacked on. The love interests aren’t manic pixie women (Annasophia Robb is wonderful), no parent is perfect (Allison Janney is perfect) and the people who live like they are in a Hemingway novel have tons of problems (Rob Corddry is my hero).  There are things in life worth growing up for and the characters realize that.

Between this and Mud 2013 has been a wonderful year for coming of age stories. They are movies that all teenagers should watch because they feature friendship, first love and two incredibly charismatic mentors (Matthew McConaughey and Sam Rockwell). These kids immerse themselves in the world, get in trouble and mature via life experience.

The Way, Way Back is wonderful. Watch it. Learn some dance moves. Hope Allison Janney gets nominated for an Oscar.


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