A few Communies (including the lovely ladies from Head Over Feels, who posted their own review of the film) and I were lucky enough to attend a screening of The Way, Way Back at the Museum of the Moving Image in Astoria last week. I’ve been excited about this film for a while, for so many reasons. Most importantly, it was written and directed by Jim Rash and Nat Faxon, the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendants, two people my Twitter timeline know very well. But even if wasn’t interested in its creators, the film’s trailer seemed to hint that this film was going to be something special.
The museum was screening it as part of series on coming of age summer films, and I have to admit, I haven’t seen the other films they’ve shown (despite them all being very, very famous. Whatever, guys, I was born in the ‘90s and my mom was apathetic about expanding my film knowledge), so I can’t speak to just how much they have in common with The Way, Way Back. But I’ve always been drawn to character-based stories, especially ones about teenagers, because when they’re done well, they speak to the widest possible range of its audience: everyone has been a teenager, and remembers what that time is like. But even though they have the ability to be the truest and most honest representations of life, coming-of-age stories, like anything else, have developed certain patterns and follow similar structures. And there were certain elements covered in The Way, Way Back: there’s an awkward boy in a very, very unfamiliar environment, a girl who offers a different way of life, a role model outside his troubled family…But this film took those familiar elements and turned them into something else, something unexpected and fresh. It wasn’t just a great film; it was something I’ve never seen before.
Warning: I don’t discuss the plot directly, but I talk enough about the emotional journeys of the film that it might spoil some of the impact of the film. I think it added a LOT to the experience to not have an idea of where things were heading, so if you plan on seeing this movie, I’d wait to read my review. If you don’t care about having it spoiled, or you’ve come back after seeing it, then proceed.