Authenticity gives the movie its witty, heartwarming, hopeful, sentimental, searing and relatable edge. It is merciless in probing the tender spots of times like these, and tough-guy sweet in patching up the wounds.
The Way, Way Back features seasoned actors Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Amanda Peet, but they offer only support to a story that 16-year-old Canadian Liam James carries to the point of stealing.
The film at least avoids a tidy "...and that was the summer that changed my life" wrap-up, but when what comes before the end credits feels so prefab, you might as well throw in a cribbed happy ending.
Faxon and Rash do everything right: The characters are rich and recognizable, they expertly guide their dream cast and they even make the soundtrack part of the story, with several endearing references to 80s pop.