don’t let the opening of the way way back scare you off. there is a decent coming of age story here with some good performances that is worth a view. maybe if i warn you that steve carell plays a total jerk, you won’t be as off-put as i was during the opening scene. the uncomfortableness remained with me awhile until i had become acclimated to seeing the usually lovable carell play the utter asshole, trent. i guess that’s good acting, that he was able to be deplorable enough to cause discomfort with the audience. this atypical casting was partly the source of uneasiness at the start of this film, but the content of that scene amplifies the feeling. it seems a bit forced as if the filmmakers knew the viewer wouldn’t buy carell being a dick, they had to create that character within the space of 5 minutes instead of letting him develop. this scene was an actual conversation the writer/director had had with his stepfather when he was 14 and thus the inspiration for this story. i can see why it was in the film, but i don’t think it’s place was the beginning, the introduction to the film, to these characters. and don’t get me wrong, carell’s character isn’t a psycho killer or anything, it’s just weird to see him as a douchebaggy prick.
after this unsettling scene, the characters arrive in the vacation town, deemed “spring break for adults,” where the film takes place and a breath of fresh air arrives with the appearance of allison janney as the loud, obnoxious neighbor, betty. the heaviness lightened by new characters and scenery. 14 year old duncan played by liam james (2012, psych) has arrived at trent’s house, where he will be staying for the summer with his mother, trent (the boyfriend), and trent’s snotty daughter. you can’t help but feel for duncan. the summer can seem like eternity when you’re feeling like an outcast. his mom (toni collette, in a nothing of note performance) seems oblivious to trent’s berating and trent’s daughter wants nothing to do with him unless it includes mean, adolescent teasing. enter sam rockwell as owen, the man-child and coincidental father figure who provides some inadvertent guidance and distraction. also serving as much needed distraction is a love interest in the cute neighbor girl, susanna, played by annasophia robb (the reaping, soul surfer).
james holds up well as the lead and the themes of growing up are dealt with competently. your first job, a summer crush, the disturbing realization that your parents don’t know everything. it may be somewhat disconcerting to those who have less than fond memories of this age, but it is a nice journey to go on and will offer nostalgia nonetheless.