At the beach, Duncan squirms at the adult behavior and ultimately flees on an old girls bike he finds in the shed. His pedaling brings him to Water Whizz park, and there he finds some happiness as an employee. Sam Rockwell is excellent as the park manager and he brings out the true Duncan - smart, sweet kid. Duncan also bonds with the neighbor girl next door who is tired of the fake shallowness of the other girls. She recognizes Duncan's humor and depth.
All in all, The Way Way Back is a coming of age story and you will root for Duncan the whole way. You will remember the awkwardness of fourteen. The directors capture it perfectly, as well as the feel of small town beach vacation. Sam Rockwell has finally been cast well and his underutilized acting skills are on full power in this film. Toni Collette always brings her game. Allison Janney is cringeworthy as the drunk neighbor with low esteem. Carell is chilling. But it's Liam James who carries this film and he's a joy. From a mumbling, bumbling nerd to a new found confident nerd, the kid can sit up straight in the way way back.
Smart acting, smart writing, and just a smart little film for the summer - a fresh ocean breeze at the theater.