It would be easy to dismiss The Way, Way Back as a formulaic, indie coming-of-age film. In fact, in a lot of ways it is. It was pleasantly surprising to find that, while this was the case, The Way, Way Back somehow pulls at all the right heartstrings and makes you care much more so than any other formulaic, indie coming-of-age film that has come down the pipeline in recent years.
Through it, the screenwriters allow their story and their characters to shine, trusting them to raise the film past its limits. Even with this, however, the film would have likely felt boringly contrived if not for incredible performances. Never has such a typical film with typical characters been so elevated by incredible acting.
Steve Carrell plays the mom’s boyfriend – a truly dickish, controlling, arrogant man. During the question and answer portion of the premiere, the writers mentioned that they wanted Carrell to play against his normal character. The result was a unique Steve Carrell performance that has further proven his range and talent as an actor. As the villain of the story, Carrell makes the audience really hate him while still making him believable and more than just a caricature.
Toni Collette plays the insecure, slightly desperate mother equally well. While her character, like many, had little to work with in terms of depth, there was no point in which I felt overly sorry for her. Instead, she manages to layer her character with some subtlety, making audiences understand her rather than feel sorry for her.
Allison Janney is incredible as the over-the-top neighbour with nary an appropriate comment to make. While characters like these have often been annoyances in films, Janney infuses her character with such honesty and love that you can’t help but feel like you want to know this person and hang out with her — and you understand why the characters in the film want to as well.
Sam Rockwell, as well, plays almost against his typical characters. As the childish water park owner who befriends and mentors young Duncan, Rockwell is brash, untethered, yet always showing a strong moral core. Rockwell’s transition from his comedic persona to his mentorship one was seamless and believable.
While not a unique story by any stretch of the imagination, The Way, Way Back is one of those rare films that manages to do it really, really well. It solidly captures the true coming-of-age story in small-town America with characters that, while not deeply developed, are thoroughly charming, likeable and heartwarming. Striking performances from the four main adults in the cast: Steve Carrell, Toni Collette, Allison Janney and Sam Rockwell help to add gravitas and emotional resonance to this not-to-be-missed summer film.
The Star Trek franchise, ever since The Original Series aired, has always been entertainment ahead of its time. It tackles complex moral issues while also envisioning a better world. What it was not, however, was well-written or massively popular to the public. The great achievement of JJ Abrams has been to compellingly tell a tale that resonates both with the die-hard fans and with the regular moviegoing public looking for the next great big blockbuster.
He does so in a number of ways. Abrams brings back a number of familiar characters, others being more well-known than some. He keeps the core of the relationships between the bridge crew intact, even bolstering it in some areas. He maintains the basic tenet of good versus evil but manages to add complexity to it that was absent from the original series. At the same time, he is not afraid to infuse the film with the more modern, pop-culture, one-liner comedy style of this time. In this way, Star Trek, while still remaining true to its core, is able to compete story-wise with such successes as The Avengers.
Visually, Star Trek is stunning. The 3D is used in a meaningful way – something I find to be very rarely done. The Enterprise is shiny, sparkly and futuristic – a ship that you would want to travel space in. Scenes shot to look like space did not seem kitschy or green-screened (even if they obviously were).
The acting, as well, is fantastic across the board. Chris Pine is quite good as Kirk, being able to play the brash playboy and the selfless leader equally well. Simon Pegg was one of the best parts of the film playing Scotty – the rare comic relief who added to the story rather than annoyed the audience. But the two standouts have to be Zachary Quinto, reprising his role as Spock, and Benedict Cumberbatch, the (unnamed for this post) villain in Into Darkness. Quinto always manages to portray the emotionless Spock as someone to empathize with and understand, not a small task given the required limit to his emotional range. Meanwhile, Cumberbatch is one of the more fearsome, complex and indestructible characters in the Trek universe. It would be difficult to find anyone who could play that better than Cumberbatch did.
In remaining true to its roots while also appealing to the larger audience, in being able to poke fun at itself while still keeping the honesty and earnestness so rife in the Trek universe, in embracing the old and the new alike, Star Trek: Into Darkness is the rare masterpiece that avoids becoming a conundrum. JJ Abrams’ second instalment in the Trek universe is aesthetically pleasing, well-plotted and broadly appealing. It is also the most cohesive and entertaining film of the year thus far.