When I was a kid, I used to hide out in my bedroom at weekends and watch movies on a tiny, boxy television set. Movies were pure escapism for me, a chance to marvel at the wonder of film and dream of adventures and exploits like those exploding across my TV screen.
Later on in life and movies remain ever present in my weekly routine. I'm fortunate that my wife shares this love of the big screen and we spend hours each week watching new releases thanks to the wonders of Apple TV and the local video store.
As an adult, there's still something magical about breaking open a DVD or standing in line at the cinema waiting to see the first showing of a brand new film. It never loses its appeal for me.
So when I was recently invited to attend a private screening of The Way Way Back at Hoyts in Sydney's Entertainment District, those emotions associated with my childhood love of the big screen and an adult addiction to the American movie came flooding back.
Just try stopping me, I thought to myself.
For me, nothing beats a coming-of-age story, particularly with a large dose of humour thrown in. The Way Way Back is that and more.
Starring Steve Carell, Toni Collette, Sam Rockwell and Allison Janney, the film revolves around 14-year old Duncan's summer vacation with his mother Pam (Collette), her overbearing boyfriend Trent (Carell), and Trent's daughter. An introvert and having a hard time fitting in, Duncan (Liam James) finds an unexpected friend in Owen (Rockwell), the manager of the nearby water park, Water Wizz.
Centred on the funny and clandestine friendship with Owen, Duncan slowly opens up and starts to find his place in the world - as a popular employee of Water Wizz and with his surrogate family there, through a budding relationship with the girl next door, and by standing up to his mother's nasty boyfriend.
I love these kinds of films. These stories remind me of me, a younger version, not part of the in-crowd, struggling to find my way and how to fit in.
I find myself rooting for the loner, urging him on to find out who he really is, to stand up and be noticed, to ultimately get the girl of his dreams. With these types of stories often serious by nature, this film excelled in its comedic turns.
Rockwell had me in stitches from the get-go.
He plays a gregarious buffoon who confines himself to life at the water park, playing pranks on his employees and making a mess of things at every turn. His relationship with Maya Rudolph who plays Caitlin is both funny and sad, and ultimately quite endearing. Best known for Saturday Night Live, Grown Ups and Bridesmaids, Rudolph always entertains and she introduces tender and poignant moments to an already heartwarming script.
The main surprise for me was Carell.
Known for his humour, Carell plays a somewhat sinister, unlikeable character, which wasn't what I expected. And the problem is he plays it very well, to the point that I forgot his funny side for a while. It's an interesting twist on the typical Carell films we know and love, and on the basis of this one, I'm certain we'll see more scripts with Carell playing away from what would be considered the norm for him.
The movie is a touch formulaic and follows a well-travelled coming-of-age path, but it treats the issues of fatherhood and infidelity with vulnerability and honesty, and although it feels like something you've seen before, you don't mind returning to it, like coming home to a familiar face or revisiting that favourite holiday destination.
The Way Way Back opens at the movies in Australia on 1 August. To find out more, visit the Facebook page here.
Have you watched The Way Way Back? What movies have you seen recently that you'd recommend below?
This post was sponsored by Hoyts Distribution in association with The Way Way Back.