Archives for posts with tag: Sam Rockwell


This is such a sweet movie, and notably, Steve Carrell finally plays a character who isn’t all that nice.

The Way Way Back is a summer flick about growing up and discovering how to follow your own path. Duncan, played by Liam James, is so awkward and uncomfortable in his own skin that there’s no question  his adventures at the beach house are going to help me come of age. Straight away he has to deal with his mother’s boyfriend (Carrell) trying to forge a new family by sheer will and passive-aggressive bullying, he has to learn how to interact with girls his age, and his father’s absence looms as a mostly unspoken but present hurt. Meanwhile, his mother becomes steadily unrecognizable to him under the influence of her boyfriend and his pack of boozy buddies. None of it seems to be going very well, until Duncan meets Owen, played by Sam Rockwell, the eccentric owner of a water park and the most unlikely of role models.

This sounds like pretty standard stuff. It is. Except it’s really well done. The characters are well-rendered, the dialogue well-written and snappy, the acting nicely-done. Toni Collette, as Duncan’s mother, is spot on, as usual. Steve Carrell really is smarmy and unlikeable (if, from time to time, unbelievable). Rockwell’s character isn’t believable at all, but there’s no denying how endearing he is as an actor, and Rockwell himself remains a gift. Liam James: bravo, I felt awkward just looking at him. Looking back at the writing, you have to acknowledge that the script attempts to keep things complicated, giving characters bits of complexity even when you expect them to be two-dimensional, and a few easy wins are denied to the audience.

Still, this is what it is: a nice movie about coming of age in a troubled family situation at a beach house where reality becomes, momentarily, more than it usually is. So dont’ expect it to be a revelation. It’s as much a genre film as any flick about vampires. It just happens to be pretty damn well-done. Recommended when you want to smile on a Saturday night with a pint of ice cream.

One note: this film tries pretty hard, and does a good job, I think, to portray people with real bodies. For that, I applaud the filmmakers.



The Sam Rockwell 90s mini-streak continues with a tale of loveable gangsters and the innocent dopes that get mixed up with them!

So here we have the story of what happens when two guys, Sam and Eddie (played by Sam Rockwell and Steve Zahn, respectively),  get confused with a pair of local safe crackers. Zany mixups, people! In this case of mixed identity, the two guys are forced to try to crack safes for an eccentric Jewish gangster, Big Fat Bernie Gayle (Michael Lerner), in order to pay back a never-again-mentioned debt. None of it makes sense, of course, but it’s funny at points. It also features a classic pre-American Splendor role for Paul Giamatti as Veal Chop. Actually, I think this is the best way to sum up the film: lots of nice/cute appearances by actors that you like or should like, but no real gestalt excellence. Mark Ruffalo and Josh Pais play the real safe crackers, and are pretty entertaining as they whisper trivial things through their work. Harvey Fierstein also does that thing he always does, and is endearing as he does it. But all the fun, funny, or sweet moments don’t really add up to much.

Meh, it ain’t high art, but it’ll help you tune out the pain.


John Turturro and Sam Rockwell flirt with frontal nudity and the 90s stay so 90s!

So the story is more or less 90s buddy flick gold: an uptight manager type (Turturro) makes a chance encounter with a free-wheeling upstart (Rockwell) who helps him learn to live a little more fully. Classic stuff. In the meantime, we get to see Turturro doing an excellent job of appearing like a real poindexter, while Rockwell is the wildcard screaming and carrying on in almost every shot. You could almost say that this is a warm-up role for the one Rockwell plays in Seven Psychopaths. The whole thing takes place in a sort of generic South, and so serves up some ripe clichés, but still manages to avoid overdoing it.

The best reason to watch this is for how 90s it is. Hydrox cookies get a product placement, much attention is paid to a mix tape played in a dashboard cassette deck, and the professional wrestling portrayed on TV really resembles what was on at that time, complete with a character called Saddam Insane. These are just a few details, but the point is that this is fun if you want a bit of a flashback to what the 90s were really like, rather than any romantic notion of kids wearing flannel. Straight camp.

For bonus points, listen to all the weird and awkward little dialogues that take place with minor characters far away in a shot or off screen. That’s when I think DiCillo is clearly messing with us.

Oh, and did I already say it? I’ll say it again: a remarkable amount of male frontal nudity in this one! It’s almost art-house!