Jim Rash and Nat Faxon won their Oscars writing "The Descendants" with Alexander Payne. At the awards ceremony Rash mocked Angelina Jolie by sticking his leg out and pouting. Just one of the many examples of the expert blend of sharp, witty comedy and heart that doesn't come out too sugary and glossy put into "The Way, Way Back", Rash and Faxon's directorial debut. Not to sound like a hypocrite here, but the movie gets most of its big laughs from relatively safe places. Doesn't make it any less true. It's refreshing, honestly. And Sam Rockwell, again used to crazy good effect (see: the criminally underrated/misunderstood "Seven Psychopaths"), draws comedy blood as a lovably ne'er-do-well water park employee. His performance is so focal, in fact, that it's hard to keep up with him. The rest of the cast mostly does.
Steve Carell is genius playing against his awkward, "Office"-y type, and Toni Collette is radiant in all of her "Little Miss Sunshine" glory. The movie opens sleepily on the heavy eyes of divorce-stunted fourteen-year-old Liam James. Rash and Faxon use his character as less an audience surrogate, but a wallflower into the second half of the film, when both come together and blossom into something that's funny as hell without suffocating its ensemble or forgetting itself. I won't cop to "The Way, Way Back" being perfect. I will, though, to falling hard for its messy, prodigal charm. Rockwell is grade-A. You won't be able to wait to go way the hell back.