As seen in the painful opening moments of Jim Rash and Nat Faxon’s “The Way, Way Back,” jerky boyfriend/potential step-dad Trent (Steve Carell) rates Duncan, the awkward teenage son of his new girlfriend, a “3” on a scale of 1-10. But hey, he means well.
“I saw this guy as someone who isn’t a bad guy, or doesn’t think of himself as a bad guy, because I think generally speaking, if you think somebody’s a jerk, they don’t think they’re a jerk,” Carell told me at the film’s recent press junket. “They just think they’re doing what they can do. And he just doesn’t have the tools to do it in a better way. You know, he’s trying to help this kid. In his mind, he’s doing what this kid needs. By anyone else’s standards, he’s really offensive.”
Speaking of ill-equipped parents, co-star Allison Janney’s alcoholic character Betty – a mother who actually makes fun of her young son’s lazy eye in full earshot of others – is another caretaker who only thinks she’s doing the right thing.
“When I read [the script] I was like, ‘this is pretty harsh,'” admitted Janney. “And then I was, ‘you know, she’s just trying to give him some tough love and have him be prepared for what’s gonna be out there. You know, people are gonna make fun of his lazy eye, and she wants to do it first so he is prepared for it. And she doesn’t think she’s being mean to him, she thinks she’s giving him the best advice, being the best mom ever. Just like [Trent] thinks he’s being a great new role model for young Liam.”
Which begs the question: why doesn’t Trent ditch Pam (Toni Collette) and get with Betty instead?
“Well, it might actually end up happening sometime,” said Carell. So does that mean “The Way, Way Back 2” is a possibility? Given the nature of the material I’m guessing probably not, but I do like Janney’s idea for a sequel title better than mine: “The Way, Way, Way Back.”
To check out the full interview with Carell and Janney, click on the video above.
“The Way, Way Back” hits theaters this Friday.