The Way Back

The Way Back ★★★

Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) drinks and thinks. He used to be a star high school basketball player and he walked away from a full ride scholarship and into a construction job and a family. Only tragedy stuck and Jack can't get past it, so he drinks and thinks, which breaks up his marriage. His high school wants him to come back and be the coach of a losing team.

Video Review - just left theater (no spoilers)

The parallels between Affleck's personal life, his own fight with sobriety and the character Jack Cunningham he plays are noticeable and pronounced. His ex-wife has a similar skinny, shapely figure as his on screen ex. Drinking and thinking to excess as a combination are bad news and this movie heavily serves up the pity party.

This held my interest, mainly due to the very believable acting of Ben Affleck. He's sort of a solo show as everybody else in the film that interacts with him doesn't have that much of a meaty party. There's a long line of fairly one-dimensional side characters like his overly concerned sister, his frustrated and distance separated wife who still cares about him and yet is off doing her own thing, the group of talented basketball players that need to pull together to reach their potential as a team, even the friendly savior who walks home Jack from the bar every night (and yet we never learn much more than that about him).

One of my common complaints about movies is here: at least 20 minutes too long. Some scenes are needlessly repeated. We don't need to see Jack at the bar getting drunk so many times. We get it, he's a struggling alcoholic. The ending comes up a bit short on full closure, although there is a good arc for the basketball team.

At the end it's hard to decide what this movie was about other than Jack Cunningham's struggles with sobriety and a struggling high school basketball team. Maybe that's all there is. Recommended on the strength of Affleck's acting, primarily. He sinks free throws acting-wise with a script that's a bit out of bounds at times.

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