Monday, August 19, 2013


As you may have read on the blog, I was pretty wild about Pacific Rim, not that my wildness or the lack there of sells tickets, lends prestige, or even marks a movie as something worth watching.  Still, the Steven L. Kent seal of approval does carry a modicum of clout on this blog.  That's got to count for something.

Anyway, Pacific Rim may have been dethroned as my favorite movie of the summer, and by a tiny movie with no notable violence--The Way Way Back.

The Way Way Back is a coming of age tale about a boy named Duncan (played by Liam James).

Duncan is a quiet, awkward, average-looking teenage boy.  His stiff posture tells you everything you need to know about him--uncomfortable, wants to be left alone, unhappy with life.

Pam, Duncan's mother (played by Toni Collette) takes Duncan to spend the summer at  her boyfriend's beach house.  Trent, the boyfriend, (played by Steve Carell),  wants to reach out to Duncan, but he's also a complete and total putz whose mentoring style includes asking the boy what score he would give himself on a scale from one to ten.  When Duncan says, "six," Trent tells him that he would give him a three and follows up with a little unsolicited fatherly advice.  Like I said, a complete and total putz.

Trent is a bit like Michael Scott only worse.  Had Michael Scott been as big a putz as Trent, The Office would have been an episode of CSI because the rest of the staff would have strangled him.   That, by the way, is not meant as a criticism of Carell, who turned in a genuinely fine performance.

The beach house is a nice place.  Trent has long-standing relations with the beach community, including Betty, the loud, oft-drunk, overly-friendly, completely tactless woman next door.  Betty, of course, has a dreamy daughter (played by AnnaSophia Robb) who is friends with Steph (played by Zoe Levin), Trent's completely witchy daughter.

Duncan, however, is facing a completely miserable summer until he runs into Owen (played by Sam Rockwell), and this is the point when I depart from the storyline to avoid doling out spoilers.  Instead, I will simply say that while Toni Collete and Steve Carell and Liam James are all wonderful, it is the hard working and under appreciated Sam Rockwell who makes this movie so watchable.  Yes, okay, he got all the best lines in the movie.  Rockwell plays the lovable goofball.  He gets to play the colorful monkey on the screen while everyone else  plays dull old real life characters.

Rockwell is one of Hollywood's unsung heroes.  Okay, I will be the first to admit that my brain bled after I saw him playing Zaphod Beeblbrox in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, but the problem there was that he followed the script.  He upstaged Tom Hanks as Billy "The Kid" Wharton in The Green Mile.  And let us not forget his emotional depiction as the heroic Guy Fleegman, the quintessential "red shirt" in Galaxy Quest.

Rockwell is an actor with a lot of talent who doesn't get the love he rather richly deserves.  The team of Rockwell and Maya Rudolph brings air to an otherwise suffocating situation in The Way Way Back.  Both Duncan and the audience are smothered in the beach house, but we all breathe fresh  oxygen when Duncan escapes and runs into Rockwell and Rudolph.

One thing about The Way Way Back, it is not your standard summer fare.  It's deep, relaxing, and refreshing, a movie you leave without raising your pulse.  Hell, watching that movie may have  temporarily lowered my blood pressure.

So, my friends, if you've had enough explosions for one summer, give The Way Way Back a go.  Better yet, give it a go and post what you thought of it.  If you disagree with me, we can even have an open discussion about why you did.... and possibly why I should refrain from writing movie reviews.


Joshua Tamasovich said...

Challenge Accepted...

Steven L. Kent said...

I'm glad somebody has accepted it!

Kadence Song said...

I wonder if you have seen "Moon" (2009)? Sam Rockwell basically has a one man show in that one. They did a lot with a little and it made the movie feel bigger than it was. I really liked the story line, the pace, building to the conclusion. There are some familiar themes in that story. I watched it a few years ago, before I had even heard of your work.

I'm adding this movie to my netflix wants when it drops.

Steven L. Kent said...

I just looked up Moon. It looks good. I'll check Netflix as well.

Finally talked my wife into seeing Pacific Rim. I dearly love The Way Way Back, but Pacific Rim is once again my top pick movie for the summer.