The Way, Way Back is the story of one teenager's summer spent at his mom's boyfriend's beach house. Told through a solid cast of characters, some fresh, some seasoned, this coming-of-age tale is clever without being cute and substance-filled without being dramatic. Yes, we've all seen and heard and read this story before--there's nothing new about teenage angst or divorce or adults who won't grow up--but the script and the acting are punchy and nuanced enough to make watching this movie worth it.
Duncan (Liam James), 14 and a self-described "6" on a scale of 1 to 10, doesn't want to spend the summer with his mom (Pam, Toni Collette) or her boyfriend (Trent, Steve Carrell) or Trent's daughter (Steph, Zoe Levin). He doesn't want to go to the beach with Steph and her friends (they don't want him to come either), and he doesn't want to hang out with Trent's friends, who would much rather eat and drink without a teenager around as well. When he finds Steph's old bicycle, he rides it to the water park nearby and stumbles upon a summer job under Owen (Sam Rockwell), the man-child manager of Water Wizz.
Working at the water park gives Duncan an identity other than "child of divorce" or "girlfriend's son" and allows him to be a kid and while he grows into an adult. He also befriends Susanna (AnnaSophia Robb), the daughter of Trent's neighbor, Betty (Allison Janney). They commiserate about having divorced parents and the fact that their moms are currently on "Spring Break for adults." Duncan's co-workers at the water park, Trent's married friends, and Susanna's younger brother round out the characters--each knocking their roles out of the park. The view from the way, way back isn't always pretty, but it's bearable when we share it with people we love.