I'm not much of a movie reviewer, but sometimes, a film just gets it right when it comes to bikes, even when the bike isn't really what the film is all about. The Way Way Back is one of those films.
Start with one of those modern, built-from-the-ashes-of-two-divorces families, with an introverted, awkward teen boy in the middle. Pile them all into an old station wagon. Put Steve Carrell in there (playing way against type as a total jerk stepdad), add in Toni Collette as the mom, and just for good measure, a bit of Allison Janney as the wacky neighbor. Oh, and our central family is on vacation at a beach timeshare sort of thing, just to flavor things with that family-on-vacation-forcing-fun dynamic. Getting the sense of this movie yet? You either love this kind of stuff (I do) or can't stand it and wonder why they left out the car chase.
So there's our introverted, awkward protagonist (I could fill months of therapy on why I relate to this kind of character, but I'll spare you), a stranger in a strange land, stuck in this beach house. Except what's this? The beach house has a garage! And when he slides back its stubborn old door, he finds... a bike!
Of course, by any normal standards of teenage boy cool, it's pretty lame: Too small. A girl's bike. Pink banana seat. White tires. Lime green rims. And -- the final insult -- handlebar streamers. But (other than ripping out the streamers), he doesn't seem to notice. He just hops on and rides. And with that bike, he's able to ride away from the beach house, away from the family drama, away from the walls closing in. Eventually, the bike will take him to the water park that marks the big turning point of the film, but without that bike? He'd never get there. He'd never get anywhere.
Besides being a former awkward teen introvert (hey, at least I grew out of one of the three), I get that kid and his silly looking bike. I remember visiting my grandparents not long after I learned to ride and realizing that I could fit on grandma's blue cruiser with the big chrome basket. Pretty soon, I was GONE. All over town. Once I made it past the end of the block, no one could see me and no one could stop me. When my grandparents got rid of their single bikes and stuck exclusively to the tandem, I'd take that out, a dorky kid cruising around by himself on a two-ton two-seater blasting its ridiculous three-note horn, running the generator lights in broad daylight, and trying to see how fast the speedometer could spin. It was the first time that I was truly (albeit temporarily) out there on my own, without a net, and it was intoxicating.
Any movie that can help me remember that feeling is a good one as far as I'm concerned.