My review + pics of “The Way, Way Back” World Premiere Q&A at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival

On Tuesday, January 22, 2013 I attended the gala World Premiere of The Way, Way Back at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. The sold-out screening was held in the 550-seat MARC Theatre. The film was a selection in the Premieres section.

The Academy Award-winning writing team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, who shared the Oscar with Alexander Payne for Best Adapted Screenplay for 2011's The Descendants, are back as co-writers/directors of the coming-of-age dramatic comedy The Way, Way Back. For this refreshingly authentic directorial debut, the pair has assembled an all-star cast including Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Amanda Peet, and Rob Corddry. Watch for some role reversals, though, as some of your favorite comic actors take some dramatic star turns in this poignant narrative.

The youngsters in the spotlight include Zoe Levin, AnnaSophia Robb, and River Alexander. A far-reaching search for the critical lead role of Duncan, the 14-year-old protagonist, turned up Canadian actor Liam James. He's perhaps best known as Young Shawn through four years of the hit series Psych and as Noah, the hero of Roland Emmerich's disaster epic 2012. The 16-year-old (15 at the time of shooting) is the heart and soul of The Way, Way Back, a role loosely based on true events in the life of co-writer/director Jim Rash.

While the coming-of-age genre encompasses a wide range of adolescent trials and tribulations, it's the awkward stage of a young boy on the cusp of manhood that defines the genre more than anything. Write what you know, "they" say, and many first-time directors (mostly male) mine this fertile territory in their early careers. These young filmmakers are at the forefront of film festival fare, resulting in a glut of these titles at events like Sundance. They're hard to avoid, and often formulaic and trite. But every so often a movie comes along that breaks the conventions and sets a new benchmark. We've seen several in the past year, including last Sundance's Goats and the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival favorite The Perks of Being a Wallflower. The Way, Way Back is certainly a much lighter film than the latter, but has enough dark moments and unexpected turns to leave the viewer emotionally charged and wanting to spend more time with Duncan on his summer vacation in Cape Cod.

I gave The Way, Way Back five stars and a place on my 2013 Sundance Film Festival Top 8 Picks.

Co-writers/directors Nat Faxon and Jim Rash introduced the film along with Sundance Film Festival Director of Programming Trevor Groth. Faxon and Rash returned after the screening for an exciting Q&A, joined by stars Liam James, Allison Janney, Toni Collette, Steve Carrell, Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, River Alexander, and Zoe Levin.

Here are some pictures I shot during the intro and Q&A:

INTRO AND Q&A GALLERY (96 photos on 6 pages)


NOTE: Following the film's first screening here, Fox Searchlight beat out suitors including Lionsgate, FilmDistrict, Paramount Pictures, and Warner Bros. in a bidding war for theatrical distribution rights to "The Way, Way Back." The final price tag of $10 million, along with other guarantees, makes it the largest deal in the history of the Sundance Film Festival. The Way, Way Back opened in 19 theaters on July 5th. It will expand into 13 additional markets on July 12th, adding around 75 more theatres as Fox Searchlight moves towards the national release on July 26th.

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Larry Richman

Larry Richman

For 20 years I was a professional in the entertainment industry, from commercial broadcast radio in America's fourth largest market to band management to record production. But my passion is independent film, and I spend much of the year traveling to film festivals to see indies and meet the actors, directors, and others responsible for creating them. I'm a writer, photographer, and videographer, currently serving as Senior Vice President for Media & Technology and Public Relations at PROnetworks as well as Editor at

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  • Author: Larry Richman
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