What a difference an Oscar and a couple years makes.
At least that's the case for the filmmaking team of Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, two fine actors in their own right who are also enjoying the success on the other side of the camera after winning a Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar with Alexander Payne for the brilliant 2011 dramedy "The Descendants."
Winning the prestigious statuette, effectively, gave Faxon and Rash the momentum to push forward with more creative control for their latest feature, the dramedy "The Way, Way Back," a project eight years in the making.
"We wrote the film in 2005 over the course of the summer and it almost got made pretty quickly, but then we were told it wouldn't happen and they were right, because it fell apart," Rash, along with Faxon, told me in a recent interview. "But while we were going through many chapters with 'The Way, Way Back,' we met with Alexander Payne about co-writing 'The Descendants' and you know what happened with that."
On their mind, always, was seeing "The Way, Way Back" through to completion.
"Our movie is something that we never forgot and always wanted to come back to," Faxon said. "So using this currency and the success of 'The Descendants' and the momentum we gained, it also allowed up to put the movie together and direct it ourselves."
Ultimately, the duo found, getting the directors' reins was worth the long wait.
"As the years go on and you're not making the film, you become inevitably closer to the material, and wanting to do it yourself in a way," Faxon added. "When you spend so much time with it, you see other directors come aboard and fall off. Still, you've heard their ideas and they don't always match up to what your vision was from the beginning, so to get that opportunity to do it ourselves was a dream."
"The Way, Way Back" stars Liam James as Duncan, an awkward 14-year-old dealing with his mom, Pam's (Toni Collette) mean-spirited boyfriend, Trent (Steve Carell), at Trent's East Coast summer home.
Expanding into theaters Friday, the coming-of-age tale also stars Sam Rockwell as Owen, a free-wheeling water park manager who takes the angst-filled Duncan under his wing; Allison Janney as Betty, Trent's fun-loving and painfully blunt next-door neighbor; and AnnaSophia Robb as Betty's daughter Susanna, whom Duncan grows close two when they discover they going through the same types of issues with their parents.
Rash and Faxon also appear in the film in supporting roles, as do Amanda Peet and Rob Corddry.
See the trailer for "The Way, Way Back" below.
Perhaps the biggest revelation in "The Way, Way Back" is Carell, the comedy star who's turned in some likeable performances in such dramedies as "Little Miss Sunshine" and "Dan in Real Life."
"The Way, Way Back" offers him an opportunity, though, to play a monstrous jerk through and through.
"He's really embraced the Trent character as this sort of guy who doesn't have the quintessential change or evolution to recognize the air of his ways," Rash explained. "Rather, he's a character that's stuck in this vicious cycle caused by his own actions. One of the things that drew us to Steve was this innate likability, and Trent needs that because there is this social aspect of him that makes him, at least for Pam in this particular moment in her life, as an attractive man to her and what she needs -- or think she needs -- in her life."
The big question is, where did such a character like Trent come from?
"We modeled that character after Jim," Faxon said, laughing.
"I wouldn't be sitting here if it was," Rash countered.
Bring Me The News film critic Tim Lammers is a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association and annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he also reviews films on “KARE 11 News at 11.” As a feature writer, Tim has interviewed well over 1,000 major actors and filmmakers throughout his career and his work is syndicated nationwide.