Alienated teenagers carry immediate baggage in coming-of-age films. Their overreactions to simple and mundane issues are often presented as pre-ordained, producing a tiresome scenario that's neither fresh nor earned.
Yet The Way, Way Back treats its main character's repressed anger with such sincerity that his internal turmoil feels natural instead of convoluted. This makes all the difference for a film traversing the incredibly familiar territory of a teenage awakening set during a life-changing summer.
The first time we see 14-year-old Duncan (Liam James), whose pubescent face seems capable only of emoting a scowl, he's facing out the back window of an old station wagon and being forced to partake in a combative conversation.
With his mother (Toni Collette) sleeping soundly in the front seat, Duncan faces the passive-aggressive wrath of her boorish boyfriend Trent (Steve Carell), who's driving them all to their beach-house destination on the coast. Trent's eyes glare down at Duncan from the rear-view mirror (a motif that gets playfully reversed later in the film), his negative words cutting deeper with each syllable.
Deceptively brutal dialogue sequences like this one are few and far between in The Way, Way Back , yet the many light-hearted comedic exchanges that follow seem on the precipice of rage. Nearly every character, including the wise-cracking owner of a water park who becomes Duncan's mentor (Sam Rockwell), suffers from deep-seated questions of self-worth.
That The Way, Way Back —opening Friday, July 12, at Hillcrest Cinemas—addresses these conflicts within a mostly groovy, sunny atmosphere makes its darker themes all the more interesting. While none of the characters in Jim Rash and Nat Faxon's directorial debut are particularly complex, they all feel true to a social world where isolation is a very real certainty and friendship is something you can't fake. For that, it's often a deceptively sad comedy.
A Hijacking : This thrilling drama depicts negotiations surrounding the seizure of a Danish vessel by Somali pirates and the survival of the sailors onboard.
The Body : When a cadaver goes missing from the morgue, a policeman must piece together an expanding mystery of murder and deception. Screens through July 18 at Digital Gym Cinema.
Grown Ups 2 : Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and Kevin James return for another round of juvenile debauchery in this sequel to the 2010 comedy.
Pacific Rim : From the mind of Hellboy director Guillermo del Toro: The world is under attack by reptilian monsters, so mankind resorts to building gigantic robots as the last line of defense.
The Way, Way Back : A 14-year-old boy finds self-worth during a summer vacation with his mother (Toni Collette) and her combative new boyfriend (Steve Carell). See our review on Page 32.
Yellowstone : The next entry in the Fleet's 40th Anniversary Fan Favorite Film Festival showcases the beauty and geothermal activity of the famed national park. Screens at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center in Balboa Park.
One Time Only
Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy : Stay classy, San Diego, and revisit this loony comedy starring Will Ferrell before the sequel gets released later this year. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido.
Wayne's World : Wayne (Mike Myers) and Garth (Dana Carvey) want you to visit them in the basement and party on. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 10, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
Not My Life : This documentary, presented by the San Diego World Affairs Council, addresses the international epidemic of human trafficking. Screens at 6 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at the Woman's Museum of California in Liberty Station.
Red Like the Sky : Presented by the San Diego Italian Film Festival, this coming-of-age story follows a lively 10-year-old boy who finds a brand-new world of creativity after being blinded by a freak accident. Screens at 7 p.m. Thursday, July 11, at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.
The Man Who Knew Too Much : Alfred Hitchcock remade his own film in glorious Technicolor with Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day as parents trying to fend off spies and reclaim their kidnapped son. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 11 and 12, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
The Room : Revel in the awfulness of this cult classic about a hapless banker who sees his world crumble when various friends betray him in glorious fashion. Screens at midnight on Saturday, July 13, at the Ken Cinema.
Ghostbusters : This hilarious 1980s comedy about phantasm hunters battling demons and bureaucracy in New York City stars Bill Murray and Dan Aykroyd. Presented by Forty-Foot Films, it screens at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 13, and Tuesday, July 16, and at 1 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Easy Rider : Dennis Hopper's iconic road film helped fuel the counter-culture generation and reinvigorated Hollywood with its experimental narrative. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday, July 13 and 14, at Cinema Under the Stars in Mission Hills.
Clandestine Childhood : Set in Argentina, circa 1979, this film follows a persecuted family that returns home to live under false identities despite imminent danger from the military junta. Screens at 2 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma
Raiders of the Lost Ark : Indiana Jones battles snakes and Nazis in one of the great adventure films of all time. Fedoras welcome. Screens at 4:30 p.m. Sunday, July 14, at Arclight Cinemas in La Jolla.
Passionada : A Portuguese widow finds herself charmed and seduced by a gambler (Jason Isaacs) who lies for a living. Screens at 6 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at the Hervey Branch Library in Point Loma.
Sin City : Robert Rodriguez adapts the famous noir comic book by Frank Miller as a mostly black-and-white world of criminals, cops and killers whose lives intersect in mysterious ways. Presented by Forty-Foot Films, it screens at 7 p.m. Tuesday, July 16, at Reading Gaslamp Cinemas.
Fantastic Mr. Fox : Roald Dahl's children's story about a farm-raiding fox comes to life via brilliant stop-motion animation and director Wes Anderson. Screens at 10 a.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, July 16 and 17, at Reading Grossmont and Town Square Cinemas.
Drop Dead Gorgeous : Dark comedy reigns supreme in this devious story of a small-town beauty who produces deadly results. Screens at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, at Stone Brewing World Bistro & Gardens in Escondido.
The Empire Strikes Back : Luke, Leia and Han resume their battle against Darth Vader in what most fans think is the best and most complex Stars Wars film. Screens at 8 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, at The Pearl Hotel in Point Loma.
We Have a Pope : Italian auteur Nani Moretti satirizes the intricate process of choosing the new pope with this fable about panic, doubt and newfound faith. Screens at 7 p.m. Wednesday, July 17, at the Scripps Ranch Library.
20 Feet From Stardom : Backup singers for today's superstars finally take center stage in this music documentary featuring a range of inspirational stories about artistic endurance and passion.
Despicable Me 2 : Gru (Steve Carell) and his army of minions attempt to transcend their roles as villains and save the world in this sequel to the popular 2010 animated film.
Hannah Arendt : A biopic about the philosopher who wrote a controversial series of articles about the trial of Nazi Adolf Eichmann for The New Yorker . Ends July 11 at the Ken Cinema.
I'm So Excited! : Pedro Almodóvar returns to more playful terrain in this racy comedy about a malfunctioning airplane packed with hysterical characters on the verge of nervous breakdowns.
Just Like a Woman : Sienna Miller gets her groove back as a housewife who runs off to New Mexico to compete in a belly-dancing competition.
Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain : Filmed at a sold-out performance at Madison Square Garden during a 2012 concert tour, this documentary showcases the comedian's brash style and formidable presence.
Laurence Anyways : Canadian director Xavier Dolan intimately documents the 10-year relationship of a male-to-female transsexual with her lover in this critically acclaimed drama. Ends July 11 at Digital Gym Cinema in North Park.
The Lone Ranger : The masterminds behind Pirates of the Caribbean hope to find similar success with this mega-budget adaptation of the classic Western hero (Armie Hammer) and his mystical sidekick (Johnny Depp).
The Heat : Yet another riff on the classic buddy comedy, this time starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy as polar-opposite cops tasked with capturing a brutal drug lord. From Bridesmaids director Paul Feig.
Redemption : Jason Statham's ex-soldier punches and kicks his way through London's criminal underworld and becomes an avenging angel in the process.
Unfinished Song : A bitter curmudgeon (Terrence Stamp) is encouraged by his wife (Vanessa Redgrave) to join a local seniors choir and find his inner song in this charming comedic drama from director Paul Andrew Williams.
White House Down : Yippy-ki-yay, Magic Mike! Channing Tatum does his best John McClane impersonation when terrorists storm the White House and take the president (Jamie Foxx) hostage. Helmed by disaster-movie-director extraordinaire Roland Emmerich ( Independence Day ).
The Bling Ring : Sofia Coppola takes aim at our celebrity-obsessed culture in a film based on true events surrounding a string of high profile thefts in Beverly Hills.
Monsters University : Professional frighteners and quibbling buddies Mike (Billy Crystal) and Sully (John Goodman) are back for Pixar's first-ever prequel set during their wild college days.
Much Ado About Nothing : The Avengers director Joss Whedon steps out of his comfort zone and updates the Bard's classically romantic skirmish of wits with this jazzy black-and-white ensemble piece. Ends July 11 at Hillcrest and La Jolla Village cinemas.
World War Z : The zombie apocalypse is in full swing as Brad Pitt attempts to save the world from certain demise. It's based on the popular graphic novel by Max Brooks.
The East : Brit Marling leads an impressive cast of indie-film regulars, including Ellen Paige and Alexander Skarsgård, in this story about a covert eco-terrorist group aiming for high-profile corporate targets.
Man of Steel : Director Zach Snyder ( 300 , Watchmen ) attempts yet another reboot of the Superman origin story with Henry Cavill sporting the famous tights and Amy Adams cracking wise as Lois Lane.
This is the End : It's the end of the world as we know it, and the Judd Apatow reunion tour feels just fine. Directed by Seth Rogen, this comedy apocalypse is sure to include multiple plumes of ganja smoke.
The Internship : Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson try to re-train themselves in the digital age with a Google internship. Prepare yourself for Lewinsky jokes.
The Kings of Summer : Three teenage boys, sick to tears of their parents, build a house in the woods and run away for the summer. Ends July 11 at La Jolla Village Cinemas.
The Purge : In the not-too-distant future, the government declares all crime legal for a 12-hour period, hoping to thin the herd of humanity. That's too bad for married couple Ethan Hawke and Lena Headey, who, along with their children, are taken hostage by some seriously bad guys.
Before Midnight : Almost two decades after Richard Linklater teamed up with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy on the romantic fantasy Before Sunrise , the trio comes together for the final film of the trilogy. Jessie and Celine aren't as young as they used to be, and that makes it the best of all of them.
Now You See Me : Four illusionists—Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson, Isla Fisher and Dave Franco—pull off amazing heists against the 1 percent and give the money to the rest of us.
Epic : Animated flick about a young girl who teams up with a ragtag collection of characters to save the world. It features the voices of folks like Amanda Seyfried, Josh Hutcherson, Beyoncé, Colin Farrell and the guy who voiced Bender on Futurama .
Fast & Furious 6 : Surprisingly, No. 5 was the best of the bunch. This time, Dwayne Johnson brings Vin Diesel and Paul Walker on board to try to take down a former special-forces guy (Luke Evans) who's all about vehicular warfare. There's already a No. 7 in the works.
The Hangover Part III : Drink, drank, drunk.
Star Trek: Into Darkness : The sequel to J.J. Abrams' rollicking reboot feels more like a summer blockbuster than a vital part of the Trek universe. Still, it's always good to see Benedict Cumberbatch on the big screen.
The Great Gatsby : Baz Luhrmann, who made Moulin Rouge , takes on the American literary classic. Leonardo DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby in this tale of class warfare.
Rocky Mountain Express: The IMAX theater at the Reuben H. Fleet Science Center was recently overhauled. This latest entry takes viewers through the Canadian Rockies without leaving San Diego.
Cosmic Collisions : So, that asteroid that might smash into Earth in 20 years is much bigger than previously thought? Awesome. This new IMAX movie at the Reuben H. Fleet looks at what happens when things bash into each other in outer space. On the bright side, if we go the way of the dinosaurs, at least future species will have a new source of fossil fuels.
Flight of the Butterflies: It turns out Monarch butterflies are much like SDSU students—every year, thousands of them head to Mexico. This IMAX film captures their beautiful trip. The butterflies, that is.
To the Arctic 3-D : Cute-animal-movie alert No. 2. Meryl Streep narrates this new IMAX movie about a mama polar bear and her two cubs.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show: The camp classic continues its ongoing run, Fridays at midnight at La Paloma Theatre in Encinitas.