‘The Way, Way Back’ is a sweet and savvy indie comedy-drama

Nat Faxon, Sam Rockwell and Liam James in ‘The Way, Way Back.’ Rated PG-13, 103 min. Fox Searchlight, 2013.

“The Way, Way Back” is the unexpected treat of the summer movie season. The indie was a crowd favorite at Sundance, and it’s easy to see why: this familiar coming-of-age story is filled with interesting characters and is supported by a quirky and touching script from first-time directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (who also play small roles).

The appeal of the movie is largely thanks to the underdog protagonist, Duncan (the subtle Liam James, in his first starring role), a 14-year-old struggling to fit in and find his own way. On a not-so-fun vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her insufferable boyfriend (Steve Carell), Duncan finds a mentor and ally in water park manager Owen (a hilariously live-wire Sam Rockwell). He gains confidence to talk to a neighbor girl (AnnaSophia Robb) and stand up for himself and his mother.

Some of the laughs come from the awkwardness of adolescence and a few bits of uncomfortable family drama, but this movie nails the feelings of a bittersweet summer. “The Way, Way Back” is charming, and it melts away all too quickly. Luckily, like the best beach getaways, the memory of it will linger.

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