Entertaining Comeback for Ben Affleck
It’s good to see Ben Affleck back on the screen again. The two-time Oscar® winner has had his share of personal troubles in recent times, but now seems to have grasped the way to rehab himself as well as his career. Affleck has been quite open about his struggle with alcohol, and he is to be commended for being open about it and trying to help others. In The Way Back he plays Jack Cunningham, a character who had his own struggles that Affleck can certainly relate to easily. Because of his own problems, Affleck can convey his character perfectly in this dramatic sports story directed by Gavin O’Connor (Warrior, 2011).
Jack Cunningham was the star player on his high school basketball team. He was the most popular boy in school and everyone loved him. Affleck is tall enough to be a credible ball player, so he fit the part well. But when he was at the top of the heap he gave it all up and walked away from the fame and fortune being offered. Why?
Now grown and divorced, Jack works in construction and seemingly has nothing going for him in his life. He spends every night drinking beer at the local watering hole or from his own refrigerator filled with brew. Most of the time he is drunk or near a state of oblivion. His good friend Doc, played by veteran actor Glyn Turman (once married to Aretha Franklin), hauls him home every night and sees to his safety. What is he trying to blot out of his memory? When he gets close to the bottom, a possible redemption comes his way.
His old school offers him the job of coaching the boys’ basketball team. They are a terrible team and have lost nearly every game. The boys are undisciplined and wild and uncoordinated. Jack sees a way to mold them into shape and turn them into a winning team if they work hard.
Affleck proves he is a good actor by being able to have tough scenes with the boys as he tries to pound them into shape. He’s emotional, fiery, intense, foul-mouthed and commanding in his scenes. But there is another side.
In a few scenes with his ex-wife Angela, played by the lovely dark-haired beauty Janina Gavankar, we slowly begin to realize what the root of his emotional wipeout is and why he’s depressed. In touching encounters with Angela, we see the tender side of Affleck emerge, and he shows us what a very good actor he really is in dramatic scenes. He may well be considered next year in the Oscar® race.
The scenes on the basketball court appear very exciting. Editing by David Rosenbloom and cinematography by Eduard Grau are splendid. They get the audience whipped into a highly emotional state over the games played by the boys and coached by Affleck’s character Jack.
The movie, as directed by Gavin O’Connor, ends up being highly satisfactory and entertaining for everyone. You do not have to be a basketball fan to enjoy this film because there is enough heartbreak and emotion to melt a marble quarry in Italy.
(Released by Warner Bros. Pictures and rated “R” for language throughout including some sexual references.)