The Way Back

way_back_ver2STARS3In 2010 there was a release called The Way Back about a POW who walked 4,000 miles to freedom during WWII.  The Way Way Back was a 2013 coming-of-age comedy with Steve Carell.  Now comes this 2020 athletic drama starring Ben Affleck.  The oft used title is as generic as this feature.  I’ll concede this isn’t a bad flick.  The chronicle is fitfully entertaining.  As part of a long hallowed tradition of sports movies, many rely on a standard blueprint to tell a story.  This is no different.  It employs a familiar narrative with a corny redemption arc.  Only a newborn or an alien from another planet unaccustomed with the concept of cinema would find this plot inventive.  Yet, this is well-acted and emotionally compelling in parts so I wasn’t immune to its charms.

I’m not going to pretend that the saga isn’t a hackneyed setup for a sports tale.  It is.  Jack Cunningham is a construction worker and an alcoholic.  His glory days are long behind him.  Once the star player on his high school basketball team, he is being recruited as the head coach at that very same high school.  The team hasn’t made the playoffs since Jack attended.  A messy divorce and addictive behaviors are a major part of Jack Cunningham’s existence.  It’s to the film’s credit that the screenplay is careful not to elevate basketball as the be-all and end-all remedy of the ails from which the protagonist suffers.  Although coaching basketball gives him something to do, his issues run deeper.

Ben Affleck is the MVP of this production.  It’s hard to ignore that the troubles of the actor himself unfolded upon a public stage.  The fact that his real-world experience may have overlapped here and there with the character he plays is key.  He delivers a poignant performance.  Having an intimate understanding of those weaknesses first-hand needn’t be a prerequisite for an actor to play an individual with the same qualities.  Nevertheless, it probably doesn’t hurt.  The part gives Affleck a distinct advantage.  Luckily he is more than up to the task as he exemplifies Jack.  The role feels lived in and honest.  That lays the groundwork into propelling this conventional fable into something that I ultimately embraced.

05-18-20

2 Responses to “The Way Back”

  1. I agree completely, although acting was very good, I pretty much predicted everything that was going to happen before it did. Ben Affleck was pretty good. 3 stars.

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    • First, lower your expectations for an inventive story to rock bottom. Then, you have to really crave sports dramas of any sort. Yeah? Then it satisfactorily entertains on that level.

      Like

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