I hadn’t quite developed my affinity for awards season in 2014, when The Way, Way Back was eligible. (That would come the year after, when I staunchly supported Boyhood over Birdman.) But I knew the film – to this day, my favorite – deserved awards, or at least some buzz. Winter passed, and The Way, Way Back barely received a single nomination. So I skipped out on awards shows, and that was that.
The Way, Way Back is a simple story: Awkward teenager Duncan follows his mom to her intolerable boyfriend Trent’s summer home in Cape Cod, and finds a home in his secret job at the local waterpark. But three things about the film made it stellar to me. The screenplay, by Oscar winners Nat Faxon and Jim Rash (for The Descendents), wasn’t just funny, but quotably so (“You don’t get humor, do you?”), and featured distinctly developed characters and dialogue. Allison Janney stole every one of her scenes with her supporting performance as Betty Thompson, Trent’s blunt, open, perpetually drunk neighbor. And Sam Rockwell did the same in his role as Owen, Duncan’s fast-talking boss-turned-father-figure. (Their two characters never even interacted once in the film, and I can’t imagine how much more I’d love it if they did.)
Fast forward to now. There’s of course no way for Faxon and Rash to be retroactively recognized for their film (which they also co-directed). But Janney and Rockwell are on their way to getting what they deserved four years ago. At Sunday’s Golden Globes, they swept the supporting performance in a motion picture categories. Janney took best supporting actress for portraying Tonya Harding’s abusive mother LaVona in the loose biopic I, Tonya. And Rockwell won best supporting actor for Jason Dixon, one of the police officers bothered by Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri’s eponymous billboards.
After seeing I, Tonya, I know without a doubt that Janney deserves her award. I can’t say the same about Rockwell – Three Billboards is on my to-watch list – whose performance has been simultaneously acclaimed and marred by allegations of racism. Nonetheless, both of their Oscar odds are now climbing according to GoldDerby, and Janny and Rockwell are moving toward overtaking frontrunners Laurie Metcalf (for Lady Bird) and Willem Dafoe (for The Florida Project). And with Oscar voting still open for another few weeks, Janney and Rockwell now have that proverbial awards season momentum.
Why does this matter to me though? One of my film-loving friends ardently believes that the Oscars give awards not just for an actor’s film at hand, but for a body of work. This seems perfectly valid to me – I mean, we can’t possibly believe Leonardo DiCaprio deserved his award for The Revenant, of all films, right? So, when Janney and Rockwell win their Globes, and eventually maybe their Oscars, they’re also winning for The Way, Way Back (among many other things). We can even say Janney’s Globe covers her six seasons ofThe West Wing. Humor me here, please.
As we get into peak awards season and I obsess over predictions and odds, I now know who I’ll support: The Way, Way Back, and Janney and Rockwell by extension. It may be a few years too late, but The Way, Way Back deserves some love and awards.