WHO WILL BE THE NEXT MASSACHUSETTS GOVERNOR ?

Image

Front runner : the GOP’s Charlie Baker

The election won’t take place until November of NEXT year. Yet already the big political talk state-wide is, “who will be our next Governor ?” As Deval Patrick is not, after two terms, running for re-election, the question matters.

There is no obvious successor. Many fit the role, but none dominates it. For the Democrats, Attorney General Martha Coakley looks most formidable; but State Treasurer Steve Grossman — who announced his candidacy yesterday — rates as supportable as well, and so also, on his resume alone, does Donald S. Berwick, a medical doctor best known as President Obama’s administrator of Medicare and Medicaid services.

Image

leading Democrat : attorney General Martha Coakley

Image

also strong : State Treasurer Steve Grossman

You would suppose that the presence of three such star-quality candidates would preclude the availability of a fourth: but you would be wrong. A second Obama administration official, Juliette Kayyem, is said to be preparing her candidacy. Kayyem appeals to those who believe that intellectual rulers should rule. She worked in the sardonically named “Department of Homeland Security,” lectures at Harvard University and writes op-eds for the Boston Globe. Kayyem is an all-in supporter of the secret surveillance state. Sadly, this is what the Democratic Party, once the courageous tribune of the rights of ordinary people, has just about become in paranoid America, 2013.

Image

Governor Snoop ? Democrat Juliette Kayyem is thinking about it.

Of course Kayyem might not actually declare. We hope she does not. State government has already become an enemy to many of the basic rights of ordinary people : think the recent and ongoing attack upon people receiving EBT benefits. Ponder the opposition to the Governor’s “transpo” bill and its new taxes, money needed if the state is to maintain, even improve, public transit, by which many ordinary Massachusetts people get to work. The last thing that ordinary Massachusetts citizens need right now is a governor trained in secret snooping.

Of all the Democrats likely to run, Martha Coakley has the best record of advocating for ordinary people. Her long campaign against the mortgage banks and their predatory, deceptive, and downright self-seeking lending and foreclosure practices deserves the congratulations of us all. Yet even Coakley has a tainted past. What Coakley watcher can forget how ruthlessly and unforgivingly she, as Middlesex District attorney, pursued the Fells Acres, day care providing Amirault Family back in the 1980s and for two decades thereafter ?

Despite which, Coakley looks to be the Democrats’ top gun, and that perception is currently well deserved.

Which brings us to the Massachusetts Republican Party. Since the local GOP has provided four of our last five governors — Weld, Cellucci, Swift, Romney — you might expect the GOP nominee to be the favorite to win in 2014. We think so too. Quite unlike the national party’s decline in civic morality and policy intelligence, the Massachusetts GOP features a long bench of A-list candidates, most of them progressive on every civil rights issue and some of them progressive even on economic agendas. Do not be misled by the dullness — except for Dan Winslow — of the GOP’s recent US Senate campaign. For the governorship, our local GOP has plenty to cheer about.

First up is Charlie Baker, an master administrator who ran in 2010 and would probably have won, had his campaign handled more deftly the presence of a strong third candidate. Baker is almost sure to run again.

It is thought that if he does not, former Senator Scott Brown will run. Brown is low-key, personable and still very much liked. He knows Beacon Hill well, having served in the legislature for ten years. The last State Senator to be elected Governor in his own right, the late Paul Cellucci, was an effective leader indeed.

(NOTE : Jane Swift had been a State Senator prior to becoming Lieutenant Governor. She succeeded to the Governorship when Cellucci was appointed Ambassador to Canada.)

Image

will he run ? Former Senator Scott Brown

Mary Z. Connaughton, who ran for state Auditor in 2010 and lost by one percentage point, might run if neither Baker nor Brown does so. She is an excellent campaigner and would be a superb candidate if she moves away from her retrograde views on social and civil rights issues.

Also possible candidates are Dan Winslow, by far the sharpest — and most under-funded — of the recent US Senate hopefuls, and Rich Tisei, a committed progressive, 16-year State Senator who lost a 2012 race for Congress by only 1,000 votes.

Clearly the Massachusetts GOP offers our citizens what a major political party should : credible candidates who stand for progressive policies beneficial to the many, not just the few. At least one such GOP candidate will run; and given the strength of the Democrats’ Coakley and Grossman — Berwick too — it should be a very intense election, with state infrastructure and education spending the prime issue : issues about which the Massachusetts GOP — so unlike the GOP nationally — offers solutions well in keeping with our state’s regard for civil rights and for the needs of those on or near the economic bottom

Our Governor campaigns always are about solutions and, by election day, so intense. This one already is.

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE  as of 1:45 P.M. 07/11/13 : yesterday we learned that State Senator Dan Wolf, founder of Cape Air and representing of the Cape Cod and Islands District, has announced for the Democratic Party’s Governor nomination. More details as we get them.

THE LEAVING OF RICK PERRY

Image

The big political story yesterday was that Rick Perry, three term Governor of Texas, will not seek a record fourth term.

Both his supporters and his opponents were thrilled at the news. Tht’s a measure of his political importance. And of the hype.

Rick Perry is not as important as hopes to be, or as he thinks he is. Perry claims that he has left Texas the most competitive economic state of all, the best for business in the 21st century, as he likes to claim. Texas may well be that; but the man who initiated Texas’s modern business prosperity is Lyndon Johnson, not Rick Perry. It was Johnson who, as JFK’s vice-president, successfully lobbied to have NASA headquartered in Houston.(Then Speaker Sam Rayburn, also a Texan, played an important role here too.) You remember NASA; it was the agency that developed a program to put a man on the Moon, and successfully did so. At the time that NASA started in Houston, the city was a growing but still one-industry “oil town.” By 1969 it was the center of America’s most advanced defense/technology enterprise.

From that NASA start, and with the vast development of underwater oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, Houston and the Texas Gulf Coast became a major American wealth and jobs hub. Large law firms and international commodities traders located there. Software companies — also drawing upon brains at work at the University of Texas and at Rice University — chose Texas as favored locus. The Texas elite of that period included a governor, John Connally, as well as a future President, George H. W. Bush, and his lawyer friend, James Baker; software pioneer H. Ross Perot; and a Senator, Lloyd Bentsen, who became running mate to a George Bush presidential opponent.

Rick Perry came late onto the scene. He was a very obscure lieutenant governor who became Governor largely by the good will of Texas voters for George W. Bush, who had been elected president two years before.

Perry inherited all of the above — the business strength and the good will. It was easy for him to simply keep on doing what was already working. Whatever drew businesses to Texas, he was for. Whatever might discourage business, he was against. Simple agendas that work are hard to beat. Perry was not beaten.

But then he decided to run for President. Like Romney, he moved to the right — sharply, and much earlier than casual observers of his entry into the 2012 primary race realized — and with effects much more devastating. Romney moved to the right after leaving office. His move affected no one but himself. Perry’s moves, on education funding, executions of prisoners — Texas executes more than the next four death penalty states combined — health care, and “nullification” of Federal laws, including Voting rights laws, made life much harder for Texas’s low income people. 25 % of Texas residents have no health insurance. the same percentage live in poverty. The abortion restriction law that State Senator Wendy Davis filibustered — and became world famous doing so — would impact mostly low income women. Perry also successfully opposed pay equity legislation and rejected hundreds of millions of Federal health insurance dollars.

Perry wants medicare, social security, the income tax, and popular election of senators abolished. These are either anti-social or just loopy views; even though they remain mere noise ,they debase the conversation and lead people away from progressive reform into dead ends of negative rant.

It is hard to see how anyone not a business executive or a negative ranter can want anything to do with Rick Perry ever again. And even business executives might question the advantage of locating ina state that makes life so hard for both the low-wage people whom most businesses count on and for those living in poverty, who lack income to buy what most businesses need to sell. Texas badly needs to change its priorities if it — and its 24,000,000 or so residents — are not to lose ground in the coming decades.

It is said that Perry intends to run again for President. We urge him not to.

 

WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO LIVE IN A KAFKA WORLD

Image

^^ Franz Kafka was haunted by the impenetrable bureaucratic, protection state whose surreal impositions he so brilliantly envisioned

——————————————————————————–

You may recall reading the novels and stories of Franz Kafka, a Czech who lived from 1883 to 1924 and who documented the impersonal, labyrinthine, secret world of bureaucratic tyranny in “The Trial” and “The Castle.” We read Kafka, and we had nightmares of his world. It was a maddening world in which the single individual was hemmed in by petty rules about everything, rules issued by no one he could identify or find, and whose minions, when he tried to protest, sent him from one door to the next in a fruitless search for relief or even for an answer to “why ?”

What we did not expect was how peacefully a world like Kafka’s would come into being and how calmly it would sit upon us. But now we know. Because we are living in one. Our Kafka world is called “the surveillance state.” We Americans created it as a result of the jet-plane attacks upon us on September 11, 2001. With legislation ruefully called “The Patriot Act” we have erected around ourselves a bureaucratic shield as impenetrable as possible, a structure of snoop and survey — not to mention the TSA and its body pat downs — intended to make us prophylactically secure against a repeat attack. We named it the “Department of Homeland Security.”

Legislation that placed security above liberty — explicitly said so — proclaims that it’s for our own protection. So said the Kafka “Castle” state as well. So has said almost every Big Brother (thank you, George Orwell in 1984) ever established. Most Castles and 1984’s of course, come into being by violence and are maintained by a terror apparatus. Not so with us. Our surveillance state has come about by legislation and controls us as blithely as the sea is smooth at dawn. Many of us like it that way.

The surveillance state that we put into place here in America always says that it takes every precaution to not violate Constitutional protections; that it respects our privacy, our liberty, our freedoms; that it will “not give up the values we live by.”

This is pure horse manure.

We know now, thanks to the revelations given us by Edward Snowden — and expanded upon by what remains of our free journalism — that the secret FISA court has authorized surveillance of all our communications for many other purposes than hunting terrorists. Our communications — all of them — are now to be commandeered in search of nuclear proliferation, cyber attacks, espionage. And that’s only what we KNOW about. Had Ed Snowden not uncovered the work of this secret court, who knows what authorizations they would have given to the National Security Agency ?

If not for Snowden, we wouldn’t have known that the FISA court even existed, much less been able to read its findings.

Few Americans would deny the CIA, or even the NSA, authority to collect data directly related to the pursuit of terrorists. Since World War II, at least, we are accustomed to having a large intelligence apparatus at work fighting our battles.  But war is war; we are not at war now. Terrorism can hurt us grievously, but it is largely an international police matter. Or you would at least think…

As a secret court, the FISA was not given a brief to fight crime. Yet that is what it has expanded to doing. This brings us to the Fourth Amendment, which sets the ground rules for searches and seizures. The Amendment requires a reasonable basis for the issuance of a search warrant. It has not been repealed — yet.

The ACLU had already sued in Federal Court to block FISA from isuing blanket surveillance authorizations. This week another group has brought suit, directly in the Supreme Court, to obtain a ruling that will limit FISA to surveillances that would pass the Fourth Amemdment test. We support their fight.

One hears the word “security’ a lot lately. “Secure the borders,” say the anti-immigrant people. “Security” is part of the very names of both the National Security Agency and the Department of Homeland Security. we are troubled to hear the word security used so broadly.

We much prefer the word liberty. Unhappily, that word has been all but commandeered by the Tea party and its anarchic, survival of the fittest agenda — a world amoral in the extreme — which, oddly, one finds in Franz Kafka. Amoral liberty, as he well knew, is the only kind that can survive in a surveillance world, secret, impenetrable. It is really no liberty at all. It is a death sentence.

Badly America needs to step back from both its security obsessions and its amoral liberty. We wish all success to those who fight either or both.

—– Michae,l Freedberg / Here and Sphere

BOSTON MAYOR RACE : IF MONEY MAKES A WINNER, THEN THE WINNER IS .

Image

Dan Conley tops the $$$ race (photo courtesy wbur.org)

Money isn’t everything in politics, but it is how everything becomes ….a thing. The thing that money most helps become is a voter base — of committed votes. With twelve (12) candidates on the September 24th Primary ballot, a shockingly small voter base can choose the two Mayoral finalists. As few as 20,000 votes — little more than five percent of all Boston voters — might get a candidate onto the November ballot.  Add the votes going to his or her opponent, and you end up with a mere 45,000 voters choosing the final two. That’s barely 12 percent  of all registered Boston voters.

But it is what it is. Quite a few of the twelve candidates have enough political sock to tally 20,000 votes. So money will make the difference in who actually does it. Money buys campaign literature, campaign advertising, lawn signs, campaign staff. It allows a campaign to make its newspaper, interest group, and union endorsements known — and unless publicized, they don’t count for much. It buys an election-day street-level operation : poll checkers, door knockers, telephone callers, telephone banks, coffee trucks for poll workers, precinct captains, secure phone lines, lists of who needs a ride (with phone numbers and addresses), precinct maps,  ID’d voter lists. Money generates “good morning voter’ doorknob cards that we used to deliver to doors, like newsboys, at 4 AM in the morning. assuming that four or five candidates have a fairly equal ID’d vote, money gives him or her who has it a strong advantage in getting those ID’d voters actually to the polls.

So who has the big bucks ? Now, at the start of July, with less than three months to go ?

Here’s the cash on hand list as of the most recent OCPF report :

Dan Conley — over 1,250,000
John R Connolly — about 675,000
Mike Ross — 500,000
Marty Walsh — about 400,000
Rob Consalvo — about 225,000
Bill Walczak — about 125,000
Felix Arroyo — also about 125,000
John Barros — about 85,000
Charlotte Golar Richie — 50,000
Charles Yancey — about 45,000

The other two candidates, David Wyatt and Charles Clemons, reported no cash on hand.
Image

John R Connolly — strong second in the money campaign (photo : courtesy wbur.org)

The list contains several surprises. We did not expect that Charlotte Golar-Richie, the only woman in the field and boasting of wide support beyond her home Dorchester turf, would figure so low on the list. Nor did we expect Bill Walczak, who has never run for city office, would top two city councillors AND Golar-Richie. And who could have foretold that Dan Conley would have almost double the cash on hand of his nearest competitor, or that he would top the entire list ?

Given that Conley has also put forth the completest policy agenda — and a progressive one at that — and that he will be in office, as Suffolk County District attorney even if he loses, and so should be able to raise money and volunteers aplenty, one has to conclude that he will make the November ballot. In this regard, it was instructive to see Conley’s poll worker operation on US Senate election day, June 25th. In wards 18 and 20, which will likely combine to deliver a full 25 percent of the September vote, he had by far the completest poll worker showing. Conley means business.

So the question remains : who will Conley’s November opponent be ? The money fact gives us scant clues. Though Mike Ross and Bill Walczak have raised much, they lack a definable voter base. As for the others, John Connolly, Rob Consalvo, Marty Walsh, and Felix Arroyo all have defined voter bases and sufficient cash to maximize their base voters’ turnout. Charlotte Golar-Richie should have the same prospect; but her lack of funds, at this late stage, sends a very negative message, both to prospective donors and to voters as yet undecided. With City Councillor Charles Yancey also on the ballot drawing votes from Golar-Richie’s likely base, her prospects look poor.

Image

Marty Walsh : likely to gain (photo courtesy : charlestownbriodge.com)

Two candidates seem poised to benefit most from Golar-Richie’s decline : Marty Walsh, the strongest Dorchester candidate, and Felix Arroyo, who needs to win convincingly among Boston’s voters of color if he is to beat Marty Walsh to the November ballot.

Image

Felix Arroyo : also likely to gain strength

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

 

FIRE AND BOUNCE : OSCAR G @ BIJOU BOSTON 07.05.13

Image

Twenty years and more after he and Ralph Falcon, as the Murk Boys, started their three year run of Funky Green Dogs and Liberty City hits hits that changed the shape and direction of house music, Oscar G (for “Gaetan”) is still at it, DJ-ing two-hour sets that at their best remain among the most distinctive and inspiring. At Bijou last night he made clear that his signature — growl-y bounce beats sending up a fierce female vocal  — unlocks dancers’ inhibitions as seductively as ever. Playing his newer works, which don’t sound much different from what he did twenty yerars ago, and mixing in fiery vocals from other producers past and current, the Miami master got his sound under his fans’ defences and kept it there. The crowd was small — it was a Holiday weekend; many folks were away on Cape Cod — but everyone utterly devoted to what Oscar G justifiably calls “the dark beat.”

The set had its weak moments, in its third half hour especially, in which Gaetan wandered away from his signature sound. Here his sound descended to the generic, music as flat as a hundred similar DJ sets you can find in any big city club. Why Gaetan chose to digress is hard to figure; in any case, he soon enough reverted to the sound that he and Falcon invented and finished as strong as he began. And strong it was. He began in bounce mode less dark than 1990s Murk textures but equally joyous, indeed quite reminiscent of the kewpie-girl, late 1980s Miami beat music that immediately preceded his darked-up invention. Using a pc program with its own mixboards, Gaetan fuzzed the vocals, gave them a dream-like aura beguiling to one’s ear and seductively at odds with his deep, syncopated, occasionally merengue rhythms.

Such was his set’s first hour; its last half hour sounded even more seductive as he played his newer works, as soulful and sensuous as 1990s Murk but more vivid. From “I’m Moving On” to “Amame’ and “Hypnotized,’ Gaetan’s recent tracks feel like Murk works dark by double. Into them he has fed the glimmery sound effects of this decade’s “tech house.” The blend has  accorded Gaetan a rhythm of movement and passion emphatically dranatized, a sound so tipsy and topsy that it readily disoriented the Bijou crowd. Here he discarded the work of other producers; his own work sufficed.

He tooled the (Murk-derived) voice of Dennis Ferrer’s 2010 hit “Hey hey” onto his own “305 Bounce.” bled it into the “I believe you are ready” come on of  “Amame,” also a Gaetan club success (from 2011), then smooved into the ten-plus minutes of appropriaely titled “Hypnotiozed,’ his current Beatport Number One. “Hypnotized” features girly tease, a guy monologue, and enough glimmer to drown a dancer in starry atmosphere. At Bijou the dancers breathed it all in, as greedy of Gaetan’s laughing gas as its puffs felt lavish.

Local DJ Wil Trahan opened for Gaetan by playing in Gaetan mode with none of the digressions that briefly marred the headliner’s two hours. Trahan’s set inc luded several tracks as Gaetan-like as any crerated by the creator himslef. An opening DJ can proram his stuff no better than that.

—- Deedee Freedberg / Feeling the Music

TWO NATIONS OR ONE ? AN INDEPENDENCE DAY WARNING

Image

^^^ the Convention in Philadelphia reached a decision about the purpose of our Union and the power it should have to do things; but it was a closely divided vote. That division continues even today, as wide apart as ever.

——————————————————————————–

As we celebrate America’s 237th birthday, we look at what has become of us. We do remain committed — almost all of us — to the democratic ideal, as asserted so timelessly in the Declaration of Independence. We remain committed to it even when, a Paul Krugman writes in today’s NY Times, in practice we seek legislation, or pursue behaviors, that negate it.

Still, as we all learn in school, the ideals in the Declaration are only one statement of our nation’s purpose. The other is the Constitution; and that document was not by any means the voice of all. In the conventions held in twelve states — Rhode Island refused to hold one — during 1787 to 1788, the question of whether to ratify or reject the Constitution divided folks bitterly. In key states, ratification was the minority opinion. “Federalists” had to work hard to win — often by just a few votes: in Massachusetts, the majority was nine out of 266 voting; in Virginia, where ratification was opposed by many, including Patrick “give me liberty or give me death” Henry, no less, the vote was 89 to 79; in New York ratification — opposed by Governor Clinton — was secured only three votes. (Rhode Island, stubbornly opposed, had to be forced to consent to the Union.)

Today we worship the Constitution — or at least we say we do — as if it had been an inevitable event. Yet Constitution Nation is, today, as divided about what it means as our founders were then. We are dividing further, in fact; and striking it is how the division gets expressed in the same terms put forth by anti-ratifiers in 1788 : “big” government versus states’ rights; federal power versus liberty; big city commerce versus rural life; national debt versus pay as you go; tyranny versus liberty; and so on.

Modern industrialization made America even more single a nation — and, to those of us seeking it,  more perfect — than the Constitution had envisioned; and the Civil Rights Acts of the 1960s enshrined our common purpose in law. But history did not stop there. Despite the efforts, struggles, and lives of so many generations of Americans to make the Constitution’s promise of “promoting the general welfare” real, our nation seems as divided as it was during the Ratification Conventions.

On the Coasts, and in key states in between, we have big-city commercial life; we enjoy the advantages of a Federal Debt that is the world’s safest and most desired investment. We have social diversity, cultural multiplicity, and full respect for the rights of women, people living alternate lifestyles, and social peace keeping. We welcome immigrants and acknowledge — sometimes proudly — that America is all about immigration. We control weapon ownership closely; we support social safety net legislation and worker unions. We do not allow religion to intrude upon public law but to remain a private matter, as the Constitution and First Amendment require; we live in confidence of the future, and and we have laws that safeguard and promote our commercial diversity.

In much of inland America, however, including most of the South, we are ruled by rural legislators, we dislike Federal debt, we rue social diversity. Culturally we are uniform, and the diversity in prospect frightens us. In these states the rights of women are regulated  by Biblical instructions, as are lifestyle alternatives. Public schools are disliked; the social safety net distrusted,  the taxes that pay for it an imposition. Voting rights are seen as a threat; so are immigrants. Guns rule; and the Constitution is seen not as the enabler of a more perfect union, but as a grudging exception to a general principle that Union is tyranny; that government and all that it seeks is the enemy of free men.

This division into two very different Americas would not be a problem except that Rural Nation controls the Federal House and through that control, prevents Big City Nation from fulfilling our objectives. As Big City nation continues, however, to hold almost all of the money power, most of the media power, and the vast majority of the education and information power, it seems highly unlikely that Rural America can have any lasting effect on Big City America except to alienate us still further from it. There are dangers definitely in aggravating this mutual alienation; just as in 1820 Thomas Jefferson heard, in  the ugly passions unleashed by the slavery question, “a warning bell ringing in the night,” so do we hear several warning bells ringing the intensifying division of America into Two nations.

Let us hope that the warning bells we hear are wrong.

—– Micvhael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

MEEK AT THE MOVIES : THE WAY, WAY BACK ( 2.5 stars)

Image

“The Way, Way Back” is the kind of summer comedy that throws enough curve balls at you to make what’s old, new again. A tad dark around the edges and sophomoric in the middle, it’s a sweetly affecting coming of age drama with flourishes of Wes Anderson and even the Farrelly brothers: which should be as no surprise, as it’s co-written and co-directed by Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, the pair, who along with (director) Alexander Payne, received an Oscar for penning the effectively droll George Clooney comedy, “The Descendants.”

The surprise here is Steve Carell who plays against his usual big screen persona as a feckless nice guy and is more like his irritable jerkwater boss on the NBC’s hit series “The Office.” His Trent, a middle-aged divorcee, decides to bring his new girlfriend Pam (Toni Collette) down to his summer house on the shore of some idyllic and fictional Massachusetts beach town. In tow are Trent’s diva daughter (Zoe Levin) and Pam’s introverted son, Duncan (Liam James).  “The Brady Bunch” this is not.

From the onset, Pam feels out of place among all of Trent’s boozing beach buddies, and Duncan wanders about an eternal outcast, though he harbors an adoring eye for the slightly sassy girl next door (AnnaSophia Robb) who he feels is out of his league because she pals around with his prospective stepsister. As the pat vacation has it, Pam cooks, Trent invites his gang over and they all drink until they pass out. On top of all that Trent has a wandering eye and a penchant for belittling Duncan. In short, the adults are the ones behaving badly while away.

Sick of the indulgent malaise, Duncan covertly takes up a job at the Water Wizz amusement park, where the other half (townies and the cheap seat vacationers) roll in to find their slice of summer Eden. The whacky park manger (Sam Rockwell) fills in as an unconventional but effective older brother figure and instills Duncan with the necessary self-esteem to approach Susanna (Robb).

The awkward intermingling of Susanna and Duncan is palpable, and moving enough, as they try to find a connection and navigate their youthful angst — which is continually exacerbated by their parents’ dysfunctions and need for alcohol. Pam’s dilemma too, as a lonely single mother looking for her chapter two, also affects. Collette, always on her mark,  gives a subtle but nuanced performance in the fairly thankless role and her two younger stars, Robb and James, also shine (and their work here should bear greater fruit down the line, especially for Robb, who’s a gifted young actress imbued with a splash of Lolita).

If there’s any shortcoming to the film, it’s that the two first-time directors try to do too much. You can almost imagine their excited ardor during their bull sessions while penning the script; but, when it came time to shoot they just didn’t have the discerning eye of an impartial third party to help shape, hone and cut. Ultimately the film settles on Duncan and his quest to find himself and some solace during the summer from Hell, yet it is also about Pam and her desires, and the arrogant Trent and his freewheeling beach crowd and their antithesis over at the Water Wizz — which has its own set of zany characters (Maya Rudolp, Faxon and Rash in bit parts). And that’s not even mentioning Trent’s perennial partners in crime Kip (Rob Corddry) and Joan (Amanda Peet) who have truckloads of baggage and closets full of skeletons and Betty next door (Alison Janney, who pretty much walks off with every scene she’s in), Susana’s mom and a widow, who wakes up making margaritas before breakfast and ridicules the heinousness of her son’s lazy eye openly in public. It’s just too busy, and the rompish silliness over at the Water Wizz sometimes feels like a stilted vignette from the woeful “Grown Ups,” which also was shot in Massachusetts and has a sequel coming out later this summer.

“The Way, Way Back,” which refers to the rear facing seat of Trent’s classic station wagon, has big ambition, lots of heart and a tricky knee.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies