The Way, Way Back

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The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Nat Faxon
Jim Rash
Produced by Tom Rice
Kevin J. Walsh
Written by Nat Faxon
Jim Rash
Music by Rob Simonsen
Cinematography John Bailey
Edited by Tatiana S. Riegel
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures (United States) StudioCanal (Australia)
Release dates
  • January 21, 2013 (2013-01-21) (Sundance)
  • July 5, 2013 (2013-07-05) (United States)
Running time
103 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $5 million[2]
Box office $23.2 million[3][4]

The Way, Way Back is a 2013 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash in their directorial debut. The film stars Liam James, Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph, with Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Faxon and Rash in supporting roles. It premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[5]


Fourteen-year-old Duncan reluctantly goes on summer vacation to a beach house in a small seaside town near Cape Cod, Massachusetts with his mother, Pam; her boyfriend, Trent; and Trent's daughter, Steph. Trent emotionally disparages Duncan, often making comments and gestures that are belittling and rude to him. Steph in turn is equally rude and snobby towards Duncan and she seems to be spoiled by Trent, who in contrast to his treatment of Duncan seems to let her do whatever she wants. On the way to the beach house, Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of one to ten, and tells Duncan he thinks Duncan is a three. They arrive at the beach house and are greeted by the neighbors: the gregarious, hard-drinking Betty; her children Susanna and Peter; and married couple Kip and Joan. Later that evening, Duncan and Susanna have an awkward conversation from their adjacent porches.

Duncan discovers a small girl's bicycle in the garage of the beach house and uses it to begin exploring the town. At a pizza restaurant, he runs into the staff of Water Wizz, the local water park. He meets Owen who is playing Pac-Man, and eventually Owen takes Duncan under his wing and shows him around the park. Duncan meets the park's colorful, rag-tag group of employees: Caitlin, Lewis, and Roddy. Several kids at the water park speak reverently of a legendary pass in the tube slide, wondering how it could have been done. Owen hires Duncan for odd jobs at Water Wizz.

Outside the park, Duncan is continually neglected by his mother, Pam, who indulges in drinking, staying out at night, and smoking marijuana with other adult vacationers. At a Fourth of July cookout, Susanna sees that he is upset about this and invites him to go hunting for ghost crabs with her and Peter, where she talks about her absent father and helps Duncan to open up. Later that night, Duncan witnesses Trent and Joan kissing by the side of the house, but does not reveal what he saw.

Pam begins to suspect Trent and Joan are having an affair, but Trent convinces her nothing is going on. Later, Duncan confronts Pam in front of friends and neighbors and tells her to face up to Trent's affair and get rid of him. Trent in turn tells Duncan his divorced father does not want him. Duncan stalks away. Susanna follows him and comforts Duncan out on the beach. Duncan attempts to kiss Susanna, but she moves away, which makes him become even more upset. Accompanied by Peter, Duncan sneaks away to Water Wizz where Owen is throwing a going away party for Lewis.

After spending all night with his friends at Water Wizz, Duncan is still at the park the next morning, refusing to leave. Owen confronts him and asks him why he does not want to go home. Duncan opens up to Owen about his relationship with Trent and how the water park is the only place where he feels happy and accepted. Owen sympathizes with Duncan's problems, saying that he grew up with an emotionally abusive father, which led to his disdain for patterns and rules. He tells Duncan there is a big world out there, and Trent's nasty remarks are more about himself than Duncan.

When Duncan arrives back at the beach house, Pam tells him they are leaving with Trent and Steph. Betty and her kids arrive to say their goodbyes. Susanna finally kisses Duncan, admitting that she "was just surprised" when she avoided his kiss earlier. When Trent stops for gas on their way out of town, Duncan jumps out of the station wagon and runs to Water Wizz, followed by his mother, then Trent and Steph. Duncan tells Owen and the other employees that he has to leave and tells Owen to follow him. He takes Owen to the Devil's Peak slide, and Duncan becomes the first person to ever pass someone in the water slide while the rest of the park watches. After finally introducing Owen to his mother, Duncan says goodbye to everyone at the park. Owen tells Pam she has a great kid, and introduces himself to Trent as "a good friend of the three". Trent, Steph, Pam and Duncan regroup in the car, and head out of town. Pam climbs to the way, way back of the car where Duncan is sitting and they share a smile as Trent's protests are heard in the background.


Box office[edit]

The film had its premiere screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival.[5] The film became one of the most financially successful films to come out of the festival that year, outperforming well-known entries and Oscar-nominated films from the previous year.[6] It was released on July 5, 2013 in 19 theaters and surpassed box office expectations, averaging an impressive $30,263 per screen and grossed $525,000 total for the weekend.[7] On July 15, 2013, the film was added to an additional 60 theaters, and grossed $1,110,000. The film ended up earning $21,506,546 in North America and $4,968,374 elsewhere for a total of $26,474,920.[4][3]


The Way, Way Back received positive reviews and has a rating of 85% on Rotten Tomatoes based on 171 reviews with an average score of 7.3 out of 10. The consensus states "Despite its familiar themes, The Way Way Back makes use of its talented cast, finely tuned script, and an abundance of charm to deliver a funny and satisfying coming-of-age story".[8] The film also has a score of 68 out of 100 on Metacritic based on 41 reviews.[9]

Inkoo Kang of The Village Voice called, The Way, Way Back "a crowd-pleasing summer treat, predictable in its sweetness but satisfying all the same".[10] BBC Radio 5 Live film critic Mark Kermode praised the performances of Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Maya Rudolph and similarly reasoned that whilst "it's not world-changing, or earth-shattering" the film is "really sweet and funny".[11] David Gritten of The Telegraph also praised the scene-stealing performances of Janney and Rockwell, concluding that despite a flood of similar coming-of-age films released in 2013 the film "feels warm, funny—and even fresh".[12] Catherine Shoard of The Guardian gave the film a positive review, concluding that "for all the longueurs, there are still enough moments of near brilliance to sustain you through the trip".[13] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times commended the film's quirky dialogue and cast performances, calling the film "witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing and relatable".[14]

Sam Rockwell's performance was met with critical praise, with many critic's agreeing that his performance was deserving of an Academy Award nomination.[15][16] MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher said that Rockwell "makes the biggest splash with a sizzling supporting performance. Not only is he naturally funny, but he has the great ability to make every sharp line of dialogue sound freshly improvised."[17]

By contrast The A.V. Club gave the film a C+, describing it as "generically constructed" and "never as refreshing as it’s constantly straining to be".[18]


  1. "For the Time Being" – Edie Brickell/The Gaddabouts
  2. "Kyrie" – Mr. Mister
  3. "Out the Door" – Ben Kweller
  4. "Come and See" – Young Galaxy
  5. "Last Legs" – Army Navy
  6. "Young Blood" – UFO
  7. "Shine" – Wild Belle
  8. "New Sensation" – INXS
  9. "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley" – Robert Palmer
  10. "Young at Heart" – The Rondo Brothers/Tim Myers
  11. "Recess" – Eli "Paperboy" Reed
  12. "Power Hungry Animals" – The Apache Relay
  13. "Alone" – Trampled by Turtles
  14. "Go Where the Love Is" – Edie Brickell/The Gaddabouts
  15. "The Way Way Back" – Rob Simonsen


Award Category Recipients and nominees Result
AARP Annual Movies for Grownups Awards[19] Best Comedy The Way, Way Back Won
Critics' Choice Movie Awards[20] Best Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Comedy Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Liam James Nominated
MTV Movie Awards[21] Best Breakthrough Performance Liam James Nominated
Online Film Critics Society[22] Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell Nominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 2013[23] Best Actor in a Supporting Role Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Ensemble Acting Nominated
Breakthrough Performance on Camera Liam James Nominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – Male Liam James Nominated
San Diego Film Critics Society[24] Best Supporting Actor Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Ensemble Performance Nominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association[25] Best Comedy Nominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association[26] Best Acting Ensemble Nominated
Best Youth Performance Liam James Nominated
Young Artist Awards[27] Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film Liam James Nominated
Best Supporting Young Actor in a Feature Film River Alexander Nominated


  1. ^ "THE WAY WAY BACK (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2013. 
  2. ^ Chai, Barbara (July 3, 2013). "The Water Park Behind ‘The Way, Way Back’". The Wall Street Journal. Dow Jones & Company. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  3. ^ a b "The Way Way Back (2013)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 3, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b "The Way, Way Back (2013) - International Box Office Results - Box Office Mojo". 
  5. ^ a b "The Way, Way Back | | Archives | Sundance Institute". Archived from the original on December 3, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  6. ^ "Sundance 2013 Pickups Are Outperforming Last Year's Crop - TheWrap". Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  7. ^ "Specialty Box Office: 'Way, Way Back' Scores Strong Debut; 'Midnight' Tops 'Sunrise' and 'Sunset' | Filmmakers, Film Industry, Film Festivals, Awards & Movie Reviews | Indiewire". Retrieved March 23, 2014. 
  8. ^ "The Way, Way Back". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  9. ^ "The Way Way Back". Metacritic. CBS Interactive. Retrieved October 29, 2013. 
  10. ^ "The Way, Way Back Offers a Sugar High, but Not Much More", The Village Voice, July 3, 2013. Retrieved on July 12, 2013.
  11. ^ "Mark Kermode reviews The Way Way Back", Kermode And Mayo's Film Review. Retrieved on August 31, 2013.
  12. ^ "The Way, Way Back, review", The Telegraph. Retrieved on August 31, 2013.
  13. ^ "The Way, Way Back – review", The Guardian. Retrieved on August 31, 2013.
  14. ^ Betsy Sharkey (July 4, 2013). "Movie review: The Way, Way Back has a sweet side and a sting – review". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 2, 2013. 
  15. ^ Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  16. ^ "The Way Way Back - Movie Review". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  17. ^ Johanson, MaryAnn. "The Way, Way Back review: how to escape from your family". Retrieved 13 August 2015. 
  18. ^ Dowd, A.A., The Way, Way Back, A. V. Club, July 4, 2013, Retrieved December 23, 2013
  19. ^ "AARP Names ’12 Years a Slave’ Best Movie for Grownups". AFI. January 6, 2014. Retrieved January 6, 2014. 
  20. ^ "19TH ANNUAL CRITICS’ CHOICE MOVIE AWARDS NOMINATIONS". Retrieved December 31, 2013. 
  21. ^ "MTV announces 2014 Movie Award nominees". USA Today. 6 March 2014. Retrieved 6 March 2014. 
  22. ^ "Online Film Critics Announce Nominees; Miyazaki and To Surprise with Multiple Nominations". Indiewire. December 9, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Phoenix Film Critics Society 2013 Award Nominations". Phoenix Film Critics Society. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  24. ^ "2013 San Diego Film Critics Society nominations". Hitfix. December 10, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  25. ^ "2013 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association nominations". Hitfix. December 9, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  26. ^ "2013 Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association winners". Hitfix. December 8, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014. 
  27. ^ "35th Annual Young Artist Awards". Young Artist Awards. Retrieved April 14, 2014. 

External links[edit]