Film / The Way Way Back

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2013 Coming of Age movie in which the protagonist, 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James) is dragged along on a family vacation with his mom (Toni Collette), her boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), and Trent's daughter. Duncan never quite finds his feet until he gets a job at a water park run by Adult Child Owen (Sam Rockwell).

This film provides examples of:

  • Adorkable: Duncan. Liam James in real life, for that matter.
  • Adult Child: Owen. To a lesser extent, every adult except Caitlin.
    Susanna: It's like Spring Break for adults.
  • Ambiguous Time Period: Apparently the script was originally set in The '80s. The decision was made to change it to modern times, but we rarely see any technology invented in the last thirty years. Most notably, a major part of the plot is that Duncan disappears for entire days and his mother chides him for not leaving a note. The lack of cell phones is a glaring thing in a 21st century setting.
  • Book Ends: The film begins and ends at Duncan's POV as he sits at the back of the Buick, as they go to and leave from Water Wizz respectively.
  • Butt-Monkey: Lewis at the waterpark, Neil/Ming Lee of the íThree Amigos!, and Trent certainly treats Duncan as one.
  • Cerebus Syndrome: Though from the start this movie has some degree of intensity, it begins as a standard Coming of Age story and is fairly predictable. However, some Genre-Busting occurs as the story takes some dark turns.
  • Cool Car: Trent's 1970 Buick Estate Wagon whose backward-facing third row seat lends the movie its' title. Justified in that he made an effort to source the same model his family owned when he was a kid.
    • Then there's Owen's "just shitty enough" Cavalier convertible and the girly pink bicycle Duncan finds in the garage and commandeers as his own transportation.
  • Crapsack World: Seen from Duncan's point of view at the beginning. It gets better though once he starts enjoying himself.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Susanna's family is quite a snarkfest. Watch the banter of Peter and Betty, and then Susanna towards Duncan.
    • Owen too; others even constantly have to tell him to be serious.
  • The Eeyore: Lewis.
  • Emo Teen: Duncan and Susanna. Both loosen up as the summer goes on.
  • Establishing Character Moment: Trent asking Duncan (insistently) how he, Duncan, rates himself on a 1-to-10 scale. When Duncan says he's a 6, Trent tells him he's a 3.
  • Faux Affably Evil: Trent loves to give off the vibe of being a likable parental figure and boyfriend but is an adulterous, emotionally abusive control freak just beneath the surface.
  • Flat Character: Steph, who falls into the Bratty Teenage Daughter trope to a t.
  • The Friend Nobody Likes: Trent, Joan, and Kip don't seem to really like Betty, but her and Pam seem to be great friends by the end of the film.
  • Freakier Than Fiction: Who in their right mind would call a water park "Water Wizz"? They did.
  • Hair of Gold, Heart of Gold: Susanna.
  • Hard-Drinking Party Girl: Betty.
  • Ironic Echo: "What are you starin' at, perv?"
    • Also, "Don't die wondering."
  • Jerkass: Trent is very much this, as he constantly berates Duncan, and emotionally abuses his mom. It doesn't help that it's implied that he's cheating on Duncan's mom with a friend.
  • Jerk With A Heart Of Jerk: Trent. There seems to be no redeeming qualities to him whatsoever.
  • Manic Pixie Dream Girl: A Rare Male Example in Owen, who helps Duncan get out of his shell and become well-liked by the staff and customers of Water Wizz.
  • Mondegreen: Discussed Trope. Let's just say Joan probably wasn't Raised Catholic.
  • Motor Mouth: Betty. Especially in her opening scene.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Susanna, and the girls Roddy, Owen, and Duncan check out when they are waiting to go on the water slides.
  • Nice Guy: Owen.
  • Plot Driving Secret: A lot of things would've been a lot easier if Duncan had just told his mom he'd gotten a job.
    • Also, it's revealed that Duncan's dad doesn't want him, which he doesn't find out until half way through the film, despite how much Duncan wants to live with him.
  • Professional Slacker: Owen. He even walks around the park in his bathrobe.
  • Souvenir Land: Water Wizz. According to Owen, it hasn't been updated since the early 1980s.
  • Tagalong Kid: Peter.
  • íThree Amigos!: Vladimir, Ishmael and Ming Lee (not their real names, just Owen's pet names to them)
  • The Cast Show Off: Sam Rockwell's dancing skills.
  • Tsundere: Caitlin, somewhat justified by the fact that Owen is unbelievably irresponsible.
  • Two Decades Behind: Done deliberately, justified, played with, lampshaded and invoked as the point. The movie shows quite a lot of older people pining for the older days, but as we are seeing the events unfold through Duncan, he is understandably creeped out by what he sees, and doesn't understand the nostalgia the others see.
  • Waxing Lyrical: Owen tries to get help with Bonnie Tyler's "Holding Out for a Hero." He gets weird looks.
  • Would Hurt a Child: When Duncan reaches his boiling point, and pushes Trent, there is no hesitation before he tries to push Duncan back.
  • Your Cheating Heart: Trent cheats on Duncan's mom. It says a lot about Trent that it's actually the least jerkish thing he does in the story.
    • It's also implied that Pam's ex-husband cheated on her as well.
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