I’ve been on a roll lately for reading good scripts and The Way, Way Back kept the streak going. It was laugh out loud funny (probably because it’s totally my kind of humor and rocked the ‘80s) but I can’t help but think there was more to it than that.
The voice was just plain fun. The tone of everything. Serious matters where discussed, events happened, people changed, but despite the upheaval, it still read like a great summer vacation. The basic idea is that a 14 year old boy is dragged out to a beach vacation by his mother’s boyfriend. He’s introverted and wants to be with his father instead.
We meet a remarkable cast of characters that are distinct and consistent and comfortable, like watching TV Land. Naturally, our protagonist comes out of his shell and gets the girl, but it isn’t quite the way you would expect – if you read straight through like you were watching and don’t spend too much time analyzing. The flow of the story is smooth and logical and while I caught myself wondering, about halfway through, if anything was actually going to happen, I immediately countered with, ‘I don’t care, it’s smooth reading and fun, so who cares?’
Sort of like summer vacation.
The writing is top shelf. It’s easy to read without being stilted or condescending. The cultural references add tremendous flavor while also lending a bit of street cred to the whimsical/reflective nature of the story. It doesn’t take itself too seriously and the visualizations are powerful. Fat kid knocking loose the kids wedged in the water slide. Teenage boy singing his heart out on “I Can’t Fight This Feeling Anymore.” Adults arguing about whether Mr. Mister sang, “Kyrie Elision” or “Carry a laser.” An entire scene composed of break-dancing moves. Pac Man at the pizza joint.
I think I’m going to read it again. Today. I will certainly read it again next summer. I mean, I had those conversations with my friends when I was 14. And I still sing my heart out on “I Can’t Fight This Feeling.”