UPDATE: Sources close to The Way, Way Back confirm that Fox Searchlight has settled a deal to distribute the comedy for just under the record $10.5 million the company paid for Little Miss Sunshine in 2006. Terms are settled and negotiations are over, with Searchlight planning an announcement shortly.
Anyone who thought the Sundance Film Festival would suffer a post-first-weekend malaise did not anticipate The Way, Way Back, a throwback summer comedy from Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the Oscar-winning screenwriters of The Descendents. There were 1,001 possible versions of Way Back that could’ve been made — 1,000 of them forgettable — but their tale of an awkward teenager (Liam James) whose nightmare beach vacation with his mom (Toni Collette) and her obnoxious boyfriend (Steve Carell) is salvaged by a gonzo mentor (Sam Rockwell) received a standing ovation from the capacity crowd at Park City’s Eccles Theater Monday afternoon.
Rash, who stars as Dean Pelton on NBC’s Community, was emotional even before the film started, indicative of the eight long years it took to bring their script to the screen and the personal nature of the protagonist’s struggle. In the first scene of the film, Duncan (James) is sitting in the way, way back of an old-fashioned station wagon when his potential stepfather callously asks how the teen grades himself on an attractiveness scale of 1 to 10. When the kid reluctantly answers 6, the grownup corrects him with only a 3. “That was inspired by a piece of a true story from me,” Rash said after the screening. “As I was asked what I thought I was on a scale of 1 to 10 by my stepfather at the time during a car trip to Michigan. We knew that was a great launch for understanding Duncan’s journey.”
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