The Way Back Movie Review: Ben Affleck's Performance is Better than the Film
The Way Back Movie Review: Ben Afflect is great, the movie is predictable
Rating: ** ½ (two and a half stars)
While the very watchable superstar Ben Affleck makes peace with his bereavement and alcoholism in this predictable and sometimes-trite sports-family drama, the film’s producers Warner Brother have made peace with the streaming platform, releasing this big film in the home-viewing space when theatres are locked down.Only the Chinese can see this film in theatres. And they are welcome to it.
It is hard to be swept into Affleck’s 24/7 surly affliction when the world is in the grips of a terrifying pandemic. This neatly though unimaginatively conceived drama shows us a world before the virus when it was okay for Affleck’s Jack Cunnigham, a former basketball champion and a current menace to sobriety, to be locked down in his own grief. Jack, we gather soon enough, has lost his young son and spends all his time blaming others for his grief.
I could understand that. What I can’t understand is the perfunctory manner in which Affleck’s interactive moments with sister (Michaela Watkins) and wife (Janina Gavankar) are dealt with. Almost as if director Gavin O’Conner (who earlier teamed up with Aflleck in The Accountant) has bigger plans for the plot which never materialize.
There is one big showdown in the kitchen with the sis that ends sarcastically with Jack asking which of the ‘20 bedrooms’ in his sister’s house he can sleep over in for Thankgiving. If I was Jack’s sibling I’d slap him. He is worse with his wife taunting her for getting over their son’s death sooner than he had.The words he uses are not polite. This man needs a mouth freshner, a soul cleanser more than a hand sanitizer.
The chance to redeem himself by turning basketball coach to his former college’s students is nothing but Sidney Pottier’s To Sir With Love, with ‘Sir’ Ben Affleck in a ceaseless alcoholic slur. The rapport with the predictably rebellious basketball boys gives us no memorable student-mentor moments. Jack keeps swearing at them. That and the drinking soon ends his coaching career. And I can’t say I grieved for him.
Thereafter the plot conspires to somehow make it look right for Affleck’s fallen character. Affleck’s endlessly dour expression suggests otherwise. Affleck shows his alcoholism with terrifying bluntness. It’s like asking Harvey Weinstein to play a serial sex offender.
Sadly Affleck’s sincere Oscar-worthy performance (if there is an Oscar ceremony next year) is far more impressive than anything in this mediocre drama about finding your way back.
We don’t have to worry about that. We are at home.