'Way, Way Back' will make its way to theaters

05:00 AM, Jan 22, 2013

Steve Carell, a cast member in "The Way, Way Back," poses at the premiere of the film at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, Monday, Jan. 21, 2013, in Park City, Utah. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) ORG XMIT: UTCP104 Chris Pizzello Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP/


Written By by Claudia Puig, USA TODAY

When a Sundance theater is packed at 8:30 a.m. mid-week it’s a testament to the film’s powerful word of mouth.

Such was the case with The Way, Way Back, a witty coming-of-age comedy starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell, Allison Janney, Maya Rudolph and Liam James. At its Monday night premiere, it got a hearty standing ovation and the crowds poured into an early-morning screening the next day. Fox Searchlight announced Tuesday afternoon that it had bought the film to distribute in North America.

The witty and heartfelt story, about an introverted teenager named Duncan (James) who is having a rough summer, will be released this summer.

I’m so proud that people will get to see it,” said Rudolph.

Nat Faxon and Jim Rash wrote, directed and play small parts in the film, based on a personal experience of Rash’s. The duo won a best adapted screenplay Oscar last year for The Descendants.

Collette plays Duncan’s insecure mom, Pam, and Carell is her overbearing boyfriend, Trent. The nasty Trent draws the audience’s ire in the first scene when he demands that Duncan rate himself on a scale of 1 to 10. When the shy boy tentatively says “Uh, 6”, Trent counters by dismissing Duncan as a “3.”

You’re looking at the 3 right here — Mr. Jim Rash,” said Faxon, following the screening, to strong applause. “This happened to him when he was a 15-year-old. And I’m happy to say he’s now a 5.”

It was a long journey to a 5,” said Rash, who calls the film, shot in Cape Cod, Mass., a “labor of love. We couldn’t have a better cast and crew to make what was a dream come true.”

Carell does a fine job in a nasty role.

When I was first asked to be part of Little Miss Sunshine…” Carell began his discussion of this movie, to much laughter. “Frankly, it was a very similar experience. Toni and were talking about it last night and I think we have impeccable taste.”

Collette co-starred with Carell in both films.

Individually we read this script and it had the same impact on us,” Carell said. “It resonated the same way. It felt economical, concise and smart and funny. And I couldn’t be more proud.”

Struggling with anger toward Trent and frustration at his mom, Duncan unexpectedly finds a friend in the carefree Owen (Rockwell), manager of a water park. Duncan gets a part-time job there and begins to shed his awkwardness and grow more open.

Some of the cast, which also includes Rob Corddry, Amanda Peet and AnnaSophia Robb, were friends of Rash and Faxon.

Nat and I and Maya were in the Groundlings (comedy troupe),” says Rash. “And our training was character work. All of these actors are trained so wonderfully both comedically and dramatically. “

For her part, Rudolph jumped at the chance to be in the film. She played Caitlyn, an employee at the water park who fends off Owen’s advances.

I didn’t care what I had to do in the movie, I would have done it,” Rudolph said. “I mean anything. I have absolutely no shame. I just want to make that clear.”

Collette echoed her castmate’s sentiments, albeit more seriously.

It’s exciting to work with such great material and extremely empathetic directors and incredible actors,” said Collette. “We were also shooting in Massachusetts in this small fishing village called Green Harbor, which was just the most delightful place. It was a total pleasure. It was like a holiday.”

Janney, who was very funny as the ditzy next-door neighbor Betty, was especially taken by the location. “Coming here and getting to work with all of these amazing people and getting to literally walk down the beach to work every day, it was the best work experience I’ve ever had.”

Thirteen-year-old newcomer River Alexander, who plays Betty’s son Peter, regarded it as a vacation. “This was my first film, and I don’t think it could have been any better than this.”

The film highlights the humor and hurts that can come with blended families.

For me it did end well,” said Rash. “I feel I’m OK. I survived. I was a kid who had parents divorce pretty early and I’ve had a couple different step-parents. For me this story was really about people sort of finding their own new family and how to make this work.”