The Way Back.
We follow Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck), a former high school basketball star that hasn’t really done much since and spends every night at the nearby bar, drowning his sorrows. It’s surprising when the Catholic school he attended asks him to return and to coach the team, alongside the assistant coach Dan (Al Madrigal). Jack’s drinking has been affecting his entire life, including his worrisome sister (Michaela Watkins) and ex-wife Angela (Janina Gavankar). Throughout the movie, we discover what led Jack to this and what might be able to save him from himself.
This is a powerhouse performance from Ben Affleck, as this movie is really a story of addiction and tragedy. It is absolutely heartbreaking and unfortunately incredibly realistic. There are a few scenes that will likely punch you in the gut.
He’s also surrounded by an incredible supporting cast. Al Madrigal does a great job as the assistant coach, in what might be his first serious role? He began on the Daily Show and co-starred in Night School, but nothing on this level. We also get a few great scenes from Michaela Watkins, a former SNL-alum who stars now on The Unicorn. Great showcases for actors who typically don’t do movies like this.
What doesn’t work?
The marketing for this movie unfortunately sells it as an inspiring sports movie, like Remember the Titans. This isn’t really about the basketball team. Only one of them even gets any semblance of story. This is a story about Affleck’s character and his alcoholism, not about the sports team, so don’t look for this movie to fill that role.
There are also a lot of pacing issues here, as the movie feels incredibly long and unnecessarily so. There’s a few false endings, which can frustrate you as you already think the movie is too long as is. It could’ve benefited from some excessive cutting and tightening.
This is a short review because this is a pretty simple explanation. Affleck’s performance, if placed into a better movie, would be earning him Oscar nominations. However, this movie felt bloated and way too long, earning it an odd March release. There are great things, and then there are things that just didn’t work. I wouldn’t recommend seeing this in theaters, wait for it to inevitably be streaming somewhere.