The Way, Way Back

Last updated

The Way, Way Back
The Way, Way Back Poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by
Written by
  • Nat Faxon
  • Jim Rash
Produced by
  • Kevin J. Walsh
  • Tom Rice
Cinematography John Bailey
Edited by Tatiana S. Riegel
Music by Rob Simonsen
Distributed by Fox Searchlight Pictures
Release dates
  • January 21, 2013 (2013-01-21)(Sundance)
  • July 5, 2013 (2013-07-05)(United States)
Running time
103 minutes [1]
CountryUnited States
Budget$5 million [2] [3]
Box office$26.9 million [3]

The Way, Way Back is a 2013 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash in their directorial debuts. It stars Liam James as Duncan, an introverted 14-year-old who goes on summer vacation to Wareham, Massachusetts with his mother and her overbearing boyfriend. It also stars Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb, Sam Rockwell, and Maya Rudolph, with Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet, Faxon, and Rash in supporting roles.


Faxon and Rash conceived the film in the early 2000s; however, it spent several years in development hell before funding could be secured. Eventually, Fox Searchlight Pictures (the same studio which distributed other independent films such as Little Miss Sunshine and Juno ) agreed to distribute the film. Filming lasted several months during summer 2012. It premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, [4] and had a wider release on July 5, 2013, where it received positive reviews and was a box office success, grossing $26.9 million against its $5 million budget.


Introverted 14-year-old Duncan from Albany, New York, reluctantly goes on summer vacation to a beach house in a small seaside town near Cape Cod, Massachusetts, with his mother, Pam; her wealthy boyfriend, Trent; and Trent's arrogant daughter, Steph. Trent emotionally belittles Duncan, frequently making comments and gestures that are condescending and rude to him. Steph follows suit in attitude towards him and is spoiled by Trent. On the way to the beach house, Trent asks Duncan to rate himself on a scale of one to ten; Duncan rates himself a six while Trent tells him he thinks Duncan is a three. They arrive at the beach house and are greeted by the neighbors: the gregarious, hard-drinking Betty, her children Susanna and Peter, and married couple Kip and Joan. Later that evening, Duncan and Susanna have an awkward conversation from their adjacent porches.

Duncan discovers a small girl's bicycle in the garage of the beach house and uses it to begin exploring the town. At a pizza restaurant, he runs into the staff of Water Wizz, the local water park. He meets Owen, who is playing Pac-Man , and eventually Owen takes Duncan under his wing and shows him around the park. Duncan meets the park's colorful, rag-tag group of employees: Caitlin, Lewis, and Roddy. Several youths at the water park speak reverently of a legendary pass in the tube slide, wondering how it could have been done. Owen hires Duncan for odd jobs at Water Wizz.

Outside the park, Duncan is continually neglected by his mother, Pam, who indulges in drinking, staying out at night, and smoking marijuana with other adult vacationers. At a Fourth of July cookout, Susanna sees that he is upset about this and invites him to go hunting for ghost crabs with her and Peter, where she talks about her absent father and helps Duncan open up. Later that night, Duncan witnesses Trent and Joan kissing by the side of the house, but does not reveal what he saw.

Pam begins to suspect Trent and Joan are having an affair, but Trent convinces her nothing is going on. Later, Duncan confronts Pam in front of friends and neighbors and tells her to face up to Trent's affair and get rid of him. Trent interjects, and Duncan insults and shoves him; Trent indignantly tells Duncan his divorced father does not want him. Duncan stalks away. Susanna follows him and comforts Duncan out on the beach. Duncan attempts to kiss Susanna, but she moves away, which makes him become even more upset. Accompanied by Peter, Duncan sneaks away to Water Wizz where Owen is throwing a going-away party for Lewis.

After spending all night with his friends at Water Wizz, Duncan is still at the park the next morning, refusing to leave. When Owen confronts him, Duncan opens up about his relationship with Trent and how the water park is the only place where he feels happy and accepted. Owen sympathizes with Duncan, recalling his upbringing where he was forced to abide to strict rules and patterns. He advises Duncan to disregard Trent's criticisms and go his own way.

When Duncan returns to the beach house, Pam tells him they are leaving with Trent and Steph. Betty and her kids arrive to say their goodbyes. Susanna finally kisses Duncan. When Trent stops for gas on their way out of town, Duncan jumps out of the station wagon and runs to Water Wizz, followed by his mother, then Trent and Steph. Duncan tells Owen and the other employees that he has to leave and tells Owen to follow him. He takes Owen to the Devil's Peak slide, and Duncan becomes the first person to ever pass someone in the water slide while the rest of the park watches. After finally introducing Owen to his mother, Duncan says goodbye to everyone at the park. Owen tells Pam of Duncan’s good nature, and introduces himself to Trent as "a good friend of the three". Trent then attempts to bypass Owen in order to bring Duncan back to the car, but Owen blocks him and Trent retreats. Duncan hugs and thanks Owen "for everything." Trent, Steph, Pam and Duncan regroup in the car, where Pam finally stands up for herself as they head out of town. Pam climbs to the “way way back” of the car where Duncan is sitting, and they share a smile as Trent's protests are heard in the background.



Box office

The film had its premiere screening at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. [4] It was one of the most financially successful films to come out of the festival that year, outperforming well-known entries and Oscar-nominated films from the previous year. [5] It was released on July 5, 2013 in 19 theaters and surpassed box office expectations, averaging an impressive $30,263 per screen and grossing $525,000 for the weekend. [6] On July 15, 2013, it was added to an additional 60 theaters and grossed $1,110,000. It ended up earning $21,506,546 in North America and $4,968,374 elsewhere, for a total of $26,474,920. [7] [8]

Critical response

The Way, Way Back received positive reviews. On Rotten Tomatoes it has a rating of 83% based on 185 reviews, with an average score of 7.30/10. The website's critical consensus states, "Despite its familiar themes, The Way Way Back makes use of its talented cast, finely tuned script, and an abundance of charm to deliver a funny and satisfying coming-of-age story". [9] On Metacritic the film has a weighted average score of 68 out of 100 based on 41 reviews, indicating "generally favorable reviews". [10]

Inkoo Kang of The Village Voice called the film "a crowd-pleasing summer treat, predictable in its sweetness but satisfying all the same". [11] BBC Radio 5 Live film critic Mark Kermode praised the performances of Sam Rockwell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Maya Rudolph and similarly reasoned that whilst "it's not world-changing, or earth-shattering" the film is "really sweet and funny". [12] David Gritten of The Daily Telegraph also praised the scene-stealing performances of Janney and Rockwell, concluding that despite a flood of similar coming-of-age films released in 2013 the film "feels warm, funny—and even fresh". [13] Catherine Shoard of The Guardian gave the film a positive review, concluding that "for all the longueurs, there are still enough moments of near brilliance to sustain you through the trip". [14] Betsy Sharkey of the Los Angeles Times commended the film's quirky dialogue and cast performances, calling the film "witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing and relatable". [15]

Sam Rockwell's performance was met with critical praise, with many critics agreeing that his performance was deserving of an Academy Award nomination. [16] [17] MaryAnn Johanson of Flick Filosopher said that Rockwell "makes the biggest splash with a sizzling supporting performance. Not only is he naturally funny, but he has the great ability to make every sharp line of dialogue sound freshly improvised." [18]

A.A. Dowd of The A.V. Club gave the film a C+, describing it as "generically constructed" and "never as refreshing as it's constantly straining to be". [19]


List of Awards and Nominations
AARP Movies for Grownups Awards [20] Best Comedy The Way, Way BackWon
Critics' Choice Movie Awards [21] Best Comedy Nominated
Best Actor in a Comedy Sam Rockwell Nominated
Best Young Actor/Actress Liam James Nominated
MTV Movie Awards [22] Best Breakthrough Performance Liam JamesNominated
Online Film Critics Society [23] Best Supporting ActorSam RockwellNominated
Phoenix Film Critics Society Awards 2013 [24] Best Actor in a Supporting RoleSam RockwellNominated
Best Ensemble ActingNominated
Breakthrough Performance on CameraLiam JamesNominated
Best Performance by a Youth in a Lead or Supporting Role – MaleLiam JamesNominated
San Diego Film Critics Society [25] Best Supporting ActorSam RockwellNominated
Best Ensemble PerformanceNominated
St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association [26] Best ComedyNominated
Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association [27] Best Acting EnsembleNominated
Best Youth PerformanceLiam JamesNominated
Young Artist Awards [28] Best Leading Young Actor in a Feature Film Liam JamesNominated
Best Supporting Young Actor in a Feature Film River Alexander Nominated


Heather Phares of AllMusic gave the film's soundtrack 7 out of 10 stars, saying:

The charming coming of age comedy The Way Way Back soundtracks its tale of 14-year-old Duncan's fateful summer working at the Water Wizz water park with bouncy '80s hits and indie rock. ... While the collection isn't as consistent as the soundtracks to like-minded films such as Juno or Little Miss Sunshine , it still has enough personality to be an entertaining set of songs. [29]

  1. "For the Time Being" – Edie Brickell/The Gaddabouts
  2. "Kyrie" – Mr. Mister
  3. "Out the Door" – Ben Kweller
  4. "Come and See" – Young Galaxy
  5. "Running Wild" – Army Navy
  6. "Young Blood" – UFO
  7. "Shine" – Wild Belle
  8. "New Sensation" – INXS
  9. "Sneaking Sally Through the Alley" – Robert Palmer
  10. "Young at Heart" – The Rondo Brothers/Tim Myers
  11. "Recess" – Eli "Paperboy" Reed
  12. "Power Hungry Animals" – The Apache Relay
  13. "Alone" – Trampled by Turtles
  14. "Go Where the Love Is" – Edie Brickell/The Gaddabouts
  15. "The Way Way Back" – Rob Simonsen [29]

Other songs

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Allison Janney</span> American actress (born 1959)

Allison Brooks Janney is an American actress. In a career spanning three decades, she is known for her performances across multiple genres of screen and stage. Janney has received various accolades, including an Academy Award, a British Academy Film Award, a Golden Globe Award, and seven Primetime Emmy Awards, in addition to nominations for two Tony Awards.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Sam Rockwell</span> American actor

Samuel Rockwell is an American actor. He is known for appearing in independent film and also as a character actor portraying a wide variety of roles both comedic and dramatic in films such as Lawn Dogs (1997), The Green Mile (1999), Galaxy Quest (1999), Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (2002), Matchstick Men (2003), The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (2005), Moon (2009), Frost/Nixon (2008), Iron Man 2 (2010), Conviction (2010), Cowboys & Aliens (2011), Seven Psychopaths (2012), The Way, Way Back (2013), Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (2017), Vice (2018), Jojo Rabbit (2019), Richard Jewell (2019), and The Best of Enemies (2019).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Elliot Page</span> Canadian actor (born 1987)

Elliot Page is a Canadian actor. He has received various accolades, including an Academy Award nomination, two BAFTA Awards and Primetime Emmy Award nominations, and a Satellite Award. Page publicly came out as transgender in December 2020. In March 2021, he became the first openly trans man to appear on the cover of Time.

<i>Lawn Dogs</i> 1997 British film

Lawn Dogs is a 1997 fantasy-drama film directed by John Duigan and starring Mischa Barton and Sam Rockwell. The film tells the story of a precocious young girl (Barton) from a gated community who befriends a landscape worker (Rockwell), and examines the societal repercussions of their friendship. Written by Naomi Wallace, the film was released by Rank Organisation, and was the company's last production.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Judy Greer</span> American actress (born 1975)

Judith Therese Evans, known professionally as Judy Greer, is an American actress. She is primarily known as a character actress, who has appeared in a wide variety of films. She first rose to prominence in a variety of supporting roles in the films Jawbreaker (1999), What Women Want (2000), 13 Going on 30 (2004), Elizabethtown (2005), 27 Dresses (2008), and Love & Other Drugs (2010).

<i>The Wackness</i> 2008 American film

The Wackness is a 2008 American coming-of-age comedy-drama film written and directed by Jonathan Levine and starring Josh Peck, Ben Kingsley, Mary-Kate Olsen, Famke Janssen, and Olivia Thirlby. The film is distributed by Sony Pictures Classics.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jim Rash</span> American actor, comedian, and filmmaker

James Rash is an American actor, comedian, and filmmaker. He portrayed the role of Dean Craig Pelton on the NBC sitcom Community (2009–2015), for which he was nominated for the Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 2012. In that same year, he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay and received a Golden Globe nomination as one of the writers of The Descendants.

<i>Moon</i> (2009 film) 2009 sci-fi film by Duncan Jones

Moon is a 2009 science fiction film directed by Duncan Jones and written by Nathan Parker from a story by Jones. The film follows Sam Bell, a man who experiences a personal crisis as he nears the end of a three-year solitary stint mining helium-3 on the far side of the Moon. Kevin Spacey voices Sam's robot companion, GERTY. Moon premiered at the 2009 Sundance Film Festival and was released in selected cinemas in New York and Los Angeles on 12 June 2009. The release was expanded to additional theatres in the United States on 10 July and to the United Kingdom on 17 July. A follow-up film containing an epilogue to the film's events, Mute, was released in 2018. A third installment, a graphic novel called Madi: Once Upon A Time in the Future, was released in 2020.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Nat Faxon</span> American actor (born 1975)

Nathaniel Faxon is an American actor, comedian, director, and screenwriter. A frequent presence on comedic films and TV series, he won the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for co-writing The Descendants (2011) and starred in the Fox comedy series Ben and Kate (2012–2013), the FX comedy series Married (2014–2015) and voices Elfo in the Netflix adult animated television series Disenchantment (2018-). He also co-wrote and co-directed The Way, Way Back (2013) and Downhill (2020) with writing partner Jim Rash.

<i>The Spectacular Now</i> 2013 film directed by James Ponsoldt

The Spectacular Now is a 2013 American coming-of-age romantic drama film directed by James Ponsoldt, from a screenplay written by Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, based on the 2008 novel of the same name by Tim Tharp. It stars Miles Teller and Shailene Woodley as two high-schoolers Sutter and Aimee, whose unexpected encounter leads to a romance blossoming between the two. Brie Larson, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bob Odenkirk, Jennifer Jason Leigh, and Kyle Chandler are featured in supporting roles.

<i>Fruitvale Station</i> 2013 film by Ryan Coogler

Fruitvale Station is a 2013 American biographical drama film written and directed by Ryan Coogler. It is Coogler's feature directorial debut and is based on the events leading to the death of Oscar Grant, a young man killed in 2009 by Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) police officer Johannes Mehserle at the Fruitvale district station in Oakland.

Rob Simonsen is an American composer based in Los Angeles.

<i>Tammy</i> (film) 2014 American film by Ben Falcone

Tammy is a 2014 American road comedy film directed and co-written by Ben Falcone and produced, co-written by, and starring Melissa McCarthy as the title character. The film also stars Susan Sarandon, Allison Janney, Gary Cole, Mark Duplass, Nat Faxon, Toni Collette, Sandra Oh, with Dan Aykroyd, and Kathy Bates. The film tells the story of a woman named Tammy who hits the road with her profane, alcoholic grandmother after finding out her husband is cheating. Tammy was released in theaters on July 2, 2014.

<i>Whiplash</i> (2014 film) 2014 American film by Damien Chazelle

Whiplash is a 2014 American independent psychological drama film written and directed by Damien Chazelle, and starring Miles Teller, J. K. Simmons, Paul Reiser and Melissa Benoist. The film follows the ambitious music student and jazz drummer Andrew Neiman (Teller), who is pushed to his limit by his abusive instructor Terence Fletcher (Simmons) at the fictitious Shaffer Conservatory in New York City. The film was produced by Bold Films, Blumhouse Productions, and Right of Way Films. Sony Pictures acquired the worldwide distribution rights, releasing the film under its Sony Pictures Classics and Stage 6 Films banners for its North American and international releases respectively.

<i>I, Tonya</i> 2017 American film by Craig Gillespie

I, Tonya is a 2017 American biographical sports mockumentary black comedy film directed by Craig Gillespie from a screenplay by Steven Rogers. It follows the life and career of figure skater Tonya Harding and her connection with the 1994 attack on her rival Nancy Kerrigan. The film states it is based on "contradictory" and "true" interviews with Harding and her ex-husband Jeff Gillooly, suggesting they are unreliable narrators. This means the viewer must decide for themselves whether to see the film as the truth or as a version concocted by Harding herself. It features darkly comedic interviews with the characters in mockumentary style, set in the modern day, and breaks the fourth wall. Margot Robbie stars as Harding, Sebastian Stan as Gillooly, and Allison Janney as Harding's mother LaVona Golden. Julianne Nicholson, Caitlin Carver, Paul Walter Hauser, and Bobby Cannavale also star.

<i>Life, Animated</i> 2016 American documentary film by Roger Ross Williams

Life, Animated is a 2016 American documentary by director Roger Ross Williams. It is co-produced by Williams with Julie Goldman, Carolyn Hepburn and Christopher Clements. Life, Animated is based on journalist Ron Suskind's 2014 book Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism, which tells the story of his son, Owen Suskind, who struggled with autism and learned how to communicate with the outside world through his love of Disney films.

<i>Leave No Trace</i> (film) 2018 film directed by Debra Granik

Leave No Trace is a 2018 American drama film directed by Debra Granik. The film is written by Granik and Anne Rosellini, based on Peter Rock's 2009 novel My Abandonment, which is based on a true story. The plot follows a military veteran father with post-traumatic stress disorder who lives in the forest with his young daughter.

<i>Bad Education</i> (2019 film) 2019 film directed by Cory Finley

Bad Education is a 2019 American crime drama film directed by Cory Finley and written by Mike Makowsky. It is based on the 2004 New York magazine article "The Bad Superintendent" by Robert Kolker, about the true story of the largest public school embezzlement in American history. It features an ensemble cast including Hugh Jackman, Allison Janney, Geraldine Viswanathan, Alex Wolff, Rafael Casal, Stephen Spinella, Annaleigh Ashford and Ray Romano.

<i>Amulet</i> (film) 2020 film directed by Romola Garai

Amulet is a 2020 British horror film written and directed by Romola Garai and starring Carla Juri, Imelda Staunton and Alec Secareanu. It premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival, was released in the United States on 24 July 2020, in UK cinemas on 28 January 2022 and was Mark Kermode's film of the week for the Kermode and Mayo's Film Review programme on BBC 5 Live.

<i>Summer of Soul</i> 2021 American documentary film

Summer of Soul is a 2021 American documentary film about the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival, directed by Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson in his directorial debut. It had its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival on January 28, 2021, where it won the Grand Jury Prize and Audience Award in the documentary categories. It had a limited theatrical release in the U.S. by Searchlight Pictures on June 25, 2021, before expanding and being released for streaming on Hulu the next weekend.


  1. "THE WAY WAY BACK (12A)". British Board of Film Classification. May 16, 2014. Retrieved May 16, 2013.
  2. Chai, Barbara (July 3, 2013). "The Water Park Behind 'The Way, Way Back'". The Wall Street Journal . Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  3. 1 2 "The Way Way Back (2013) – Financial Information". The Numbers .
  4. 1 2 "The Way, Way Back". Sundance Film Festival . The Sundance Institute. Archived from the original on December 30, 2012. Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  5. Cunningham, Todd (August 8, 2013). "Sundance 2013 Pickups Are Outperforming Last Year's Crop". TheWrap . Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  6. Knegt, Peter (July 8, 2013). "Specialty Box Office: 'Way, Way Back' Scores Strong Debut; 'Midnight' Tops 'Sunrise' and 'Sunset'". IndieWire . Retrieved March 23, 2014.
  7. "The Way, Way Back – International Box Office Results". Box Office Mojo . Retrieved August 22, 2018.
  8. "The Way Way Back". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved June 3, 2014.
  9. "The Way Way Back (2013)". Rotten Tomatoes . Retrieved September 7, 2021.
  10. "The Way Way Back Reviews". Metacritic . Retrieved October 29, 2013.
  11. Kang, Inkoo (July 3, 2013). "The Way, Way Back Offers a Sugar High, but Not Much More". The Village Voice . Archived from the original on July 12, 2013. Retrieved July 12, 2013.
  12. Kermode, Mark (August 30, 2013). "Mark Kermode reviews The Way, Way Back". Kermode and Mayo's Film Review . BBC . Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  13. Gritten, David (August 29, 2013). "The Way, Way Back, review". The Daily Telegraph . Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  14. Shoard, Catherine (August 29, 2013). "The Way, Way Back – review". The Guardian . Retrieved August 31, 2013.
  15. Sharkey, Betsy (July 4, 2013). "Movie review: The Way, Way Back has a sweet side and a sting – review". Los Angeles Times . Retrieved September 2, 2013.
  16. Seibert, Perry. "The Way Way Back Review". TV Guide . Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  17. Movieline (July 8, 2013). "The Way Way Back – Movie Review" . Retrieved August 13, 2015 via YouTube.
  18. Johanson, MaryAnn (August 27, 2013). "The Way, Way Back review: how to escape from your family". Flick Filosopher. Retrieved August 13, 2015.
  19. Dowd, A.A. (July 4, 2013). "The Way, Way Back". The A.V. Club . Retrieved December 23, 2013.
  20. Sikaly, Andrea (January 6, 2014). "AARP Names '12 Years a Slave' Best Movie for Grownups". Variety . Retrieved January 6, 2014.
  21. Website Administrator (December 16, 2013). "19th Annual Critics' Choice Movie Awards Nominations". Critics' Choice Awards . Retrieved December 31, 2013.
  22. Oldenburg, Ann (March 6, 2014). "MTV announces 2014 Movie Award nominees". USA Today . Retrieved March 6, 2014.
  23. Renninger, Bryce J. (December 9, 2013). "Online Film Critics Announce Nominees; Miyazaki and To Surprise with Multiple Nominations". IndieWire. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  24. "Phoenix Film Critics Society 2013 Award Nominations". Phoenix Film Critics Society. Archived from the original on December 13, 2013. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  25. Tapley, Kristopher (December 10, 2013). "2013 San Diego Film Critics Society nominations". HitFix . Archived from the original on February 14, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  26. Tapley, Kristopher (December 9, 2013). "2013 St. Louis Gateway Film Critics Association nominations". HitFix. Archived from the original on April 8, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  27. Tapley, Kristopher (December 8, 2013). "2013 Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association winners". HitFix. Archived from the original on February 22, 2014. Retrieved March 9, 2014.
  28. "2014 Nominations & Results". Young Artist Awards. Archived from the original on May 8, 2014. Retrieved April 14, 2014.
  29. 1 2 Phares, Heather (July 3, 2013). "The Way Way Back – Original Soundtrack". AllMusic . Retrieved September 4, 2016.
  30. CdmScott (July 12, 2013). "The Way, Way Back". Cinema de Merde. Retrieved September 17, 2016.