My latest film obsession is The Way, Way Back. This came out a couple of years ago, and I adored it. It’s now on HBO, and I literally cannot stop watching it. It’s such a sweet coming of age story about a 15-year-old boy named Duncan (how unfortunate for him) who spends the summer with his mother and his mother’s horrible boyfriend, Trent (an a-hole name if ever there was one…sorry to all the nice Trents out there…played by Steve Carell), at the boyfriend’s beach house in The Hamptons (or some other reasonably similar beach location in the northeast). Trent sucks and makes Duncan feel like crap a lot. Circumstances initially look dire for Duncan, who can’t yet drive and doesn’t have any friends, until he happens on a fancy pink bike while rummaging through the beach house shed. The bike, complete with a flower basket and jaunty handle streamers, becomes Duncan’s ticket to summer freedom, and he begins exploring the area. He eventually finds himself at the local water park and ends up making friends with a whole host of interesting characters, the most prominent of whom is the fun-loving father-figure/man-boy owner of the water park, Owen (Sam Rockwell). There are a lot of things, good and bad, that happen to Duncan throughout the movie that I won’t ruin because it is so worth watching, but Owen becomes Duncan’s saving grace and is the absolute best thing about the film. The point is, watch the movie. It will melt your heart. (Shortly after I saw this movie for the first time, I overheard a girl of probably 16 talking about it to a friend as we all waited in line for a ride at Six Flags. She said it was the dumbest movie she had ever seen and that “nothing happened the whole time except for this boy riding around on a bike and he sits in the very back of a station wagon and that’s why it’s called The Way, Way Back.” I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to slap anyone so much in my entire life. But then I felt sorry for her because she is clearly just not a smart person and has a cold, cold heart.)
I’m not sure if you caught this unlikely twist here, so let me spell it out for you. Sam Rockwell plays a beautifully humble and sensitive character, and Steve Carell plays a dick. It’s all wonderfully backward and very, very awesome.
I’m not exactly a huge Sam Rockwell fan. He’s kind of gross. Like, he looks dirty. But he’s also a little sexy in a grungy, hillbilly kind of way that I don’t fully understand. I think it’s something in the teeth. I’m incredibly conflicted by the whole thing, which results in my general dislike. I do tend to like him in his various roles though, so whatever. I don’t have to explain myself. Anyway, my all-time favorite Sam Rockwell character has always been Wild Bill in The Green Mile (which, in my opinion, is one of the better adaptations of a Stephen King book into a film, following The Shawshank Redemption and Stand By Me…both short stories, but you get the idea). He’s just so awful and great in that role. He captures the character in such a way that makes you love how bad Wild Bill is and how much you completely hate him. It’s perfect. I also really enjoy him in Iron Man 1 and 2. Justin Hammer is arrogant but with the appropriate amount of not-so-hidden insecurity with a small side of stupidity. So good, but still with that underlying feeling of disdain on my part. With Owen, the disdain is completely gone. I love him. Like non-dick Steve Carell, Dan in Real Life (WATCH THIS), love him. I just don’t know what to do with myself besides watch in awe and forget the Sam Rockwell of my past.
Incidentally, I’m about half-way through Stephen King’s latest book, Mr. Mercedes, and I can’t put it down. Last summer, I read Joyland and Doctor Sleep, and both of them blew my mind. SK is going HARD these days with the good books, and I couldn’t be happier.