The Velvet Café

A room for thoughts about movies

The best opening scene in a movie of 2013

with 13 comments

The Way, Way BackI’m a sucker for great opening scenes.

Not every movie goer is, judging from how people behave in theatres.

Some believe that it’s perfectly fine to keep up the conversation with your friend until all the text credits in the beginning of the movie are done and over with and a few more minutes to wrap it up. Others don’t even bother to show up before several minutes into the movie. There appears to be a secret agreement that any scene taking place before the text credits doesn’t count as a part of the movie. It’s basically to be regarded a commercial ad.

Needless to say don’t agree with this. I’m frankly rather annoyed with the latecomers as they’re making their way to the middle of the section where I’m sitting, demanding everyone to stand up so they can pass and get to their seats. But as much as I hate on them, I also pity them. They miss out a lot.

A truly great opening can be so much more than an appetizer. It’s the entrance door into the world where you’re going to spend the next two hours. If it’s well carved, it will bring you into the room ever so quickly and the doors will close seamlessly behind you. The world outside doesn’t exist anymore. You already feel as if you know the people, even if they’ve only spoken a few sentences. You understand where they’re coming from, you’ve rooted for them and you want to know what comes next in their lives. And those who are master in their craft of making good opening scenes can accomplish all of this without taking to tricks such as voiceovers or text signs to explain the back story.

The best scene of the movie
In the case of The Way, Way Back, the opening scene is the best in the entire movie. It’s actually one of the best written scenes I’ve seen in a theatre this year, and I wouldn’t have wanted to miss it out for anything. The scene takes place in a car where a family is travelling on their way towards a seaside resort for a summer vacation. 14 year old Duncan is confined to the trunk. The boyfriend of her mother, Trent, initiates a conversation, looking back at Duncan through the rear mirror.

Trent: Duncan! On a scale of 1 to 10, what do you think you are?

Duncan: A 6

Trent: I think you’re a 3! Since I’ve been dating your mom, I don’t see you putting yourself out there bud! You could try getting that score up at my beach house this summer!”

It was a good thing for Trent that he wasn’t physically in the theatre at that moment. I would have punched his face. Hard.

In an interview one of the screenwriters mentioned that this scene was based on a true event. He had had this dialogue when he was in Duncan’s age. I wasn’t surprised. The pain, humiliation and sense of being trapped that is conveyed in this scene feels too honest and real to be something that someone made up out of nothing.

I won’t spend a lot of words on the rest of the movie, but I liked it quite a bit, the way I tend to like bittersweet coming-of-age movies about teenage boys. They’re usually easier to digest than coming-of-age movies about teenage girls where they always have to include a part where the girl loses her innocence having sex with a much older man, which feels icky and makes me uncomfortable.

An unnecessary cliché
Speaking of icky, there is actually a little bit of that too in this film, which made me a little sad since it felt so unnecessary. It’s when Duncan’s new friend Owen, who runs a water fun park, gives him lessons about how to manipulate the water ride in order to get a better look at the bottoms of the girls waiting for their ride. It’s clear that you’re not supposed to question this; this is in perfect order. Harassing teenage girls and exploiting their bodies with your male gaze is apparently a part of growing up to be a man. Maybe that’s reality today, but I couldn’t help wishing the writers had had the guts to look beyond that cliché.

It gets better
However this is just a minor complaint and it doesn’t take away from the film that it was a delight to watch: a movie with the heart in the right place, funny and sad in the right places, ending up in a realistic place, not overly idealized, but yet bringing some kind of hope to all the other Duncanses in the world. I hope they get to see this.

Growing up can be a pain, especially in the neighbourhood of jerks like Trent. But it gets better.

The Way, Way Back (Nat Faxon & Jim Rash, US 2013) My rating: 4/5

Written by Jessica

September 9, 2013 at 1:00 am

Posted in The Way Way Back

13 Responses

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  1. Absolutely loved this movie. I’m still working on my review, because I really want to do justice to just how real and touching it is. It felt like my childhood put up on screen.

    Completely agree with you about both the opening screen (so awkward and horrible) and the use of the teenage girls. It should have been used to show that Owen isn’t perfect, but it wasn’t really commented on. Shame.


    September 9, 2013 at 1:04 am

    • It’s a great little film! I also should mention tat there are some wonderful acting performances that I didn’t get to talk about in this post. Pretty much everyone is excellent!


      September 9, 2013 at 8:01 am

  2. I loved this film and that opening scene was great. I like Steve Carrel but man, he played such an asshole in that film I wanted to punch him as well. I think it’s a wonderful coming-of-age film that features Sam Rockwell in one of his finest performances.


    September 9, 2013 at 5:16 am

    • Yep, Sam Rockwell is great. His nailing it with this character who is enchanting, but yet not without flaws, more of a real person than just a fantasy figure, which he could have become.


      September 9, 2013 at 8:03 am

  3. Saw this over the weekend and really enjoyed it. I thought pretty much everyone gave great performances, particularly Rockwell, Janney and Carrel. It was a little cheesy at times but overall I thought it was great.

    Terry Malloy's Pigeon Coop

    September 9, 2013 at 8:40 am

    • It’s definitely balancing on the verge of cheesiness, but I think it ended up at the right side of the fence. With exception from the thing I mentioned in this post, I loved the writing.


      September 9, 2013 at 11:47 pm

  4. Great review. One of my most anticipated of the year. I wonder when’s it going to open around here!


    September 10, 2013 at 10:34 pm

    • Thanks! I hope it will come, if nothing else on DVD. I think it will work fine in that format as well.


      September 10, 2013 at 11:13 pm

      • Yeah, We’ll always have home video if our local theaters decide not to show certain movies.


        September 10, 2013 at 11:16 pm

  5. Well said, Jessica. A great scene that sets the tone for the whole film and I think what I love most about it is how essentially the rest of the film works as a bridge to get them right back to the same place so the mother can the join the son. In back. Where they belong together. Fantastic bit of writing.


    September 19, 2013 at 2:52 am

    • Yes, I love that kind of writing too, when you return to the same place – and yet quite not the same place. It’s a classic way of knitting it all together, but I never grow tired of it.


      November 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm

  6. […] The best opening scene in a movie of 2013 […]

  7. […] The Way Way Back Growing up can be a pain, especially in the neighbourhood of jerks like Trent. But it gets better. But it gets better. […]

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