The Way, Way Back, a witty, clever coming of age type story that managed to overcome all the clichés of the genre with genuine emotional resonance, came and went without nearly enough note. It’s an excellent script from Faxon & Rash and it was probably the strength of the script, which takes the time to humanize all of its characters, even the smallest ones, that allowed the duo to assemble a really amazing cast of talented actors. Liam James takes the lead as the awkward fourteen year old Duncan, the poor kid at the heart of the movie. Despite his unknown status, he holds his own. Consider the rest of the cast and you’ll appreciate what a feat that is. Writers Nat Faxon & Jim Rash as a pair of mismatched water park employees are quite funny. Rob Corddry has less to do than he deserves, but he has a way with a one-liner, obviously. Amanda Peet is quite funny as a character that slowly reveals a darker side of her character than the viewer expected. Alison Janney is a laugh riot as a hyperactive neighbor. Maya Rudolph finds a surprising, sweet, melancholy zen place in her performance as a supervisor at the water park. AnnaSophia Robb gets several big laughs as Duncan’s “love interest.” The always brilliant Toni Collette is pitch perfect as Duncan’s neurotic, good-hearted mother and Steve Carrell is a marvel as her abrasive, deeply unlikable boyfriend. Last but not least, there’s Sam Rockwell in yet another performance that ought to be starmaking as the free-spirited, sarcastic Owen; on one level, he’s your typical “free spirit that teaches the main character how to live to the fullest” kind of character, but as the film progresses, he reveals interesting, cliché busting depths as we see the struggle between his free-spirit and his desire for something more substantial than silliness out of life. It’s a wonderful cast and they bring life to the wonderful script perfectly. It’s a pure pleasure to watch these actors, even in the smaller roles, bring their characters to life with wit and charm and genuine emotion.
Well, that’s all of our ensemble awards. Next up, let’s move on to the talented ladies that lit up the screen (but not quite enough to make the top ten). Next time, it’s the five runners up in the Best Female Performance category!