Booze and hoops. Booze and hopes.
BQB here with a review of the Ben Affleck drama, “The Way Back.”
It’s a story we’ve seen again and again in a film. A curmudgeonly coach takes on a new team. He’s doubtful at first but as he gets to know the kids, he learns they are winners and just need someone to guide them. He provides that guidance and in doing so, finds his own redemption.
That essences is here, and yet…not. This isn’t the Bad News Bears. There’s no humor and there’s no schmaltz. Alcoholism has gripped Affleck’s Jack Cunningham in its icy hand and it is not letting go without a knock down, drag out fight. From the booze he hides in his office to the cases upon cases that fill his fridge, Jack is a rummy through and through. We see how this disease weighs him down, tearing his life apart, destroying his relationship with his family and making it nearly impossible for him to find any real meaning.
There’s no overnight miracle here. Coaching the kids helps and Jack finds he isn’t as useless on the court as he is in most areas of life. But there’s no happy, feel good moment where Jack pours out the hooch, quits cold turkey and becomes the greatest coach of all time. As any recovering addict will tell you, fighting that monkey on your back is a daily grind, and this film shows that grind in all its gross glory.
This film might have also been about Affleck exercising his own demons. Affleck has spoken publicly about his own battle with alcohol. Jack has to come to grips with his divorce and estrangement from his wife, and Affleck has said publicly that he regrets his divorce Jennifer Garner. In fact, coping with regret is a big part of the film – accepting what we cannot change, learning how to improve upon our mistakes where we can, learning how to not tear ourselves apart over the proverbial spilt milk where we can’t.
STATUS: Shelf-worthy. It’s a decent film. Not something I’d watch over and over. Not something that’s Oscar bound. Affleck exercises his dramatic chops and it might give you some food to thought if you’re battling your own demons. Other than that, I wouldn’t call it a good or bad movie, just somewhere in the middle.