Posts Tagged ‘The Way Way Back’

Final Weekend of Summer: ‘You’re Next (Adam Wingard, 2013), ‘The Way, Way Back’ (Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, 2013), Pain & Gain (Michael Bay, 2013)

You’re Next successfully operates as a piece of entertainment, with little attempt made to unsettle or scare. The family conflict, as established over the opening quarter, is vivid and engaging enough in its own right to sustain a straight drama without the arrival of masked maniacs, survivalism and synthy 80s horror beats. Adam Wingard’s film has confidence and energy, an innate understanding of the genre and how to tick the various boxes. It lacks the self-referential or deconstructive qualities of Cabin in the Woods, but rolls down toward its audience, an expanding snowball of inventive kills, fun characters and expert exploration of spatial geography. As an exercise in mining the home invasion siege picture for maximum enjoyment, it’s the sharpest, most re-watchable American horror film since Sam Raimi’s Drag Me To Hell.

The Way, Way Back sits comfortably alongside The Perks of Being a Wallflower and Adventureland as amongst the better coming-of-age nostalgia fests to recently hit screens. Nat Faxon & Jim Rash’s film is refreshingly quirk free and lacks that tiresome, grating quality that spoiled the likes of 500 Days of Summer and Juno. For the first thirty minutes or so I was a little uncertain about lead actor Liam James, who seemed a bit stiff relative to the truly excellent support, not least Toni Collette (troubled mother) and Steve Carell (prize cunt). As the film opened up into something less stylised, but possibly more broadly accessible than Alexander Payne’s work (the last of which, The Descendants, scooped Rash & Faxon a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar) the dramatic necessity of James’ performance became more apparent and my tolerance of it grew. The real star here though is Sam Rockwell, grabbing one of those parts that offer up a slideshow of all an actors best qualities and stealing away the film from his capable co-stars. His role is in turns hilarious, poignant and makes a wholly likeable film into an almost loveable one.

Pain & Gain, Michael Bay’s latest, is evidence (if ever needed) that the forty-something director is burdened with the maturity of a slow-witted teenage boy. It’s either a complete disaster or the funniest film I’ve ever seen. Maybe both. Without venturing into the minefield of morality, I’m not entirely certain his movie coheres as an actual feature film, working best as a series of baffling, interconnected comedy sketches that indulge live-action re-enactment of Bay’s late night cocaine dreams. Dildos, drugs and protein shakes assault every frame of this bodybuilding action pic, any social comment present in Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely’s screenplay long since washed away by Bay’s crassness, misogyny and tendency to distraction. My long-held desire to see Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson play a born again Christian was satiated though…

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