It was one of Brooke’s most beloved films of 2013 and remains one of the most perfect summer pictures ever made. We watched The Way, Way Back. We took sides, we laughed, we judged, we ate pizza. AM, you know the drill, tell the people why this picture made the Required Viewing list and what you thought of it. (By the way, the only acceptable answer is that you loved it.)
A: WHAT IF I DIDN’T LOVE IT?!
JK, of course I did. There was the aforementioned pizza (with garlic knots aplenty), plus you know I’m there for Allison Janney’s entire catalogue of work. However, you didn’t tell me that Steve Carell, who is always the nicest guy (if a bit of a buffoon, see Michael Scott), plays the WORST human ever in this.
This film, I’m told, was chosen because it is the perfect companion piece to Away We Go, although aside from a similar mood, they have little in common. Perhaps “growing up” as our motif? As for why and how The Way, Way Back became one of Brooke’s beloved, I will start with the cast (who is impeccable) and also add that the script is also delightful, full of summer fun and summer drama.
Brooke, to you, please. Why in fact did this top your 2013 list?
B: I’m glad you loved it and we’re still friends. I am sorry I didn’t warn you about Steve, but you needed to experience that organically. And I will give you props for nearly nailing why The Way, Way Back is the perfect companion piece to Away We Go. You see, coming of age is absolutely at the core of both of these pictures, but more than that is the overwhelming sense of families in transition and protagonists who need to carve their own place in the world. And quite beyond that, there’s a very timeless sense to both of these films that sets me in mindset of summer. And then there’s the staggeringly talented cast and the glorious soundtracks. Basically, both of these pictures have a lot going for them.
I’m not quite sure where The Way, Way Back landed on my Top 10 in 2013, but I know it was way, way up there. There’s nothing like an indie gem discovered in the heat of the summer to cleanse the palate of a fledgling critic. And there’s also nothing like having writer-directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash come through town and be absolute dolls to chat at.
Okay, AM, let’s get into it, what did you love more, the nostalgic elements, the drunk Allison Janney or the Hot Goss storylines?
A: I wanted to spend all of my time, just like our teenage hero Duncan, at the water park. We all got to be the new kid with him, then the unexpected breakdance hero and “employee of the month,” plus waterslide passing champion. And that’s not even mentioning the support and love from Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph! Plus, probably at least an ice cream discount if not outright free ice cream.
Drunk Allison Janney is a close, close second. I also quite enjoyed the nostalgia elements, especially riding your bike around all over town all summer long. I was more of a “I’ll grab a ride with my parents” kid and then an “I’ll drive” teenager, but nothing says summer like 8pm bike rides.
Brooke, same question back, plus tell me: who do you think had the worst summer of the bunch?
B: At this point, I’ve seen The Way, Way Back a fair few times, and while every single bit of it still works, it’s one Allison Janney who never fails to delight me the most. Somehow, her delivery keeps a bit of sting to every line, even when I have them memorized. A close second has to be the nostalgia though. That’s the source of the magic of this picture and the whole reason it’s irresistible, even after all this time. Watching it now, it’s incredible to see the nuance built into Duncan’s journey, as it so closely mirrors the path of coming into one’s own that we all have to walk. And let’s be real, has Sam Rockwell ever been more loveable? NO.
The worst summer? Hands-down Toni Collette. She was with an asshole and actively resisting a truth everyone could see while ostracizing her kid. Not a good look.
AM, here’s what I need to hear from you, if we worked at Water Wizz, what nicknames do you think we would earn? And who was your favorite side character? I love Jim Rash’s disgruntled Lewis who dreams of being a storm chaser, but just hangs around the park brooding instead. “Look there’s a storm, I’ll go catch it. *grabbing hug motion* Got it.”
A: First of all, if I worked at Water Wizz, I would put myself in charge of making snow cones. I looked into being a lifeguard when I was 16 and while most of the summer you sit around and work on your tan, I got panicky thinking about trying to save a drowning person and did not apply.
With that plum position, I’d invent flavor combinations all day and so either my nickname would be like “Snow Cone Gal” or else “THE EXTREME.” Help me, I can’t come up with my own nickname. Brooke, I think you’d be a Maya type that runs shit. You don’t actually need to handle the overflowing toilet, you’d deploy your minions to get that taken care of before any guest notices.
Favorite side character is Peter, Alison Janney’s slightly cross-eyed son. I love any child in a movie who gets their way by threatening to yell for their mom. But no, Sam Rockwell has literally never been so adorable and dysfunctionally wonderful, and I loved his dynamic with all of the Water Wizz employees and guests.
Toni Collette might be the winner on the adult side, but don’t forget that Steph, Duncan’s would-be stepsister and Steve Carell’s semi-awful daughter got broken up with unceremoniously by her jock boyfriend Chad (I don’t even care if that’s not the character’s given name, his name is Chad, all jock movie boyfriends are called Chad. Or Chet.). Sure, we maybe don’t care about her as much because she’s a brat and takes after her dad, but that does suck.
Ok, Brooke, help me out with nicknames, would you? And please tell us about your very first job, summer or otherwise.
B: How will I ever top “Snow Cone Gal”? I actually do quite like “THE EXTREME,” but I think you’d end up as something like “Flavor Babe” or “Ice Queen” depending how nice you were to everyone. As a Maya type (THANK YOU), I probably wouldn’t get to be one of the gang and have any nice nicknames, but I’d run shit, so I’d make my peace.
My first job (other than some one-off odd jobs) was at Target, or the Big T, as I called it. I worked on the floor and unloaded boxes and organized stuff and things. I still have one of the boxcutters I acquired there, as well as a general distaste for people who mess up the folds on the towels or leave rugs laying in the aisles.
Alright AM, I think there are two other major themes we have to unpack based on The Way, Way Back: 1. What is (or was) your summer anthem? What would be your go-to potluck contribution if we had sweet neighboring beach cribs?
A: You didn’t inquire, but my real first job was at an old-school video store that featured a combination of VHS and DVDs for rental or purchase. Did you know if you rent out a brand-new DVD of a brand-new release that it used to cost the store about $100 per disc? So if you happened to lose it or destroy it or let your teenage kid rent on your account, you’d be on the hook for almost that whole price. The cost went down every time someone rented it, but MAN did people get upset about that policy.
I try to organize my shufflings through retail clothing so that I don’t cause the lovely hourly employees to have to re-do everything, but there are some shirt configurations that are IMPOSSIBLE unless you know the magic folds. I digress.
My summer anthem tends to just be whatever song I’m currently obsessed with, but there was more than one entire Blink-182 CD that went into heavy summer rotation when I was in high school. I’ll stick with my pop queens for the ultimate summer jam music (Kesha, Katy Perry, etc.) and I’ve also been recently listening to whatever “Tropical” or “Poolside” techno playlist Spotify has created on any given week. Brooke, do you have a go-to?
Summer BBQs for me are synonymous with “potluck” since my family always did every family gathering regardless of season or reason with a potluck. If I’m not assigned something, I tend to go dips. Dips are easy, they’re fun, and for a non-sit-down party, I think they’re the perfect conversation facilitator.
B: I’m definitely on your side when it comes to pop princesses as the queens of summer. But I think the tracks that will always make me feel like it’s hot and sweaty outside are from the albums I listened to over and over again during the summers of my high school years. Augustana. Panic at the Disco. And of course anything from Reality Bites, my forever summer film obsession. We’re talking My Sharona, Tempted, Baby I Love Your Way. Taken at face value, any one of those things are light and airy, but for me, they’ll always be heady, weighted down by the endless potential of all of those days of nothing.
As for my BBQ contribution, you know it’s gotta be that homemade ice cream. But … before we start comparing recipies, let’s let the sun go down on the perfect summer confection that is The Way, Way Back.
Main image credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures
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