KoS directed by Jordan Vogt-Roberts/WWB directed by Nat Faxon & Jim Rash
The golden leaves lining my neighborhood streets are harbingers heralding the end of summer, and perhaps it’s time I finally got around to writing about two noteworthy films from the summer passed, The Kings of Summer and The Way Way Back. These two films deal with coming of age in simultaneously traditional and novel ways, and both enjoy their own successes, but I have to call it in favor of Faxon and Rash on the basis of their well honed screenplay. Jordan Vogt-Roberts subscribes to a kind of dreamy, disjointed directorial style that serves Kings well, but its weakness stems from the story itself. The story of a trio of teens determined to live on their own for the summer take to crafting a lost boys style shack in the nearby state wilderness is interesting enough, but it seemed too slavishly written to adhere to this “one summer as a metaphysical microcosm” motif. The entire cast was charmingly believable (particularly Gabriel Basso and Nick Robinson), but there were times in the film when the teens seemed to act in a way altogether incongruous with their age and with their previous actions in the film. Way Way Back’s Liam James is stellar as the 14 old misfit who finds his grit and gusto while working at a dilapidated water park run by slackerish Owen (Sam Rockwell is a true blue joy to savor in every scene, and I so so love Maya Rudolph). I give screenwriter Chris Galletta credit for attempting to go long with Kings, but his vision exceeded his throw (a particular problem I could not reconcile was the amount of time it would have actually taken to build that house from scrounged parts), while Faxon and Rash seem to have an innate understanding for rhythms and parallelism, metaphor and motif, for making such a well trod path seem fresh and alive. Not to mention that both Faxon and Rash are superb in the bit roles they wrote for themselves. Both films are worth a watch, but if it had to be one or the other, I would say The Way Way Back is the better bet.