THE WAY BACK – Review by Susan Granger

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At Bishop Hayes High School in San Pedro, California, Jack Cunningham was a basketball star with a full college scholarship. But, then, suddenly, for no discernable reason, he walked away from the game, forfeiting his future.

Now in his mid-40s, Jack (Ben Affleck) is drowning in the alcoholism that cost him his marriage to Angela (Janina Gavbankar) and all hope of a better life.

During the day, working in construction, he hides cheap vodka in a metal canister; he spends evenings doing shots at Harold’s Place and drinking more cans of beer at home.

When headmaster Father Devine (John Aylward) asks him to coach the basketball team at his parochial alma mater, he reluctantly accepts, surprising no one more than himself.

As the teenage boys come together as a team, known as the Tigers, Jack sees a potential captain in Brandon (Brandon Wilson), the son of a once-promising player (T.K. Carter). And he finds a new friend in the assistant coach (Al Madrigal), who helps him shape these undisciplined underdogs into a competitive force.

But has Jack has found a reason to confront the demons that continue to plague him? And will he succeed?

Working from a cliché-filled script (originally titled The Has Been) by Ben Ingelsby (“
Out of the Furnace), director Gavin O’Connor (Warrior) wisely cast Ben Affleck, who has been open about drawing on his own boozing experiences and the dissolution of his marriage to actress Jennifer Garner, all of which has been extensively chronicled in the tabloids.

On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, The Way Back is a somber, simplistic 6, a redemption saga.

NOTE: Because movie theaters are closed for the duration of the pandemic, Warner Bros. is immediately releasing this gritty, cautionary addiction drama on Prime Video, Apple TV, Google Play and Direct TV to meet increased demand for in-home entertainment options.

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Susan Granger

Susan Granger is a product of Hollywood. Her natural father, S. Sylvan Simon, was a director and producer at R.K.O., M.G.M. and Columbia Pictures; her adoptive father, Armand Deutsch, produced movies at M.G.M. As a child, Susan appeared in movies with Abbott & Costello, Red Skelton, Lucille Ball, Margaret O'Brien and Lassie. She attended Mills College in California, studying journalism with Pierre Salinger, and graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with highest honors in journalism. During her adult life, Susan has been on radio and television as an anchorwoman and movie/drama critic. Her newspaper reviews have been syndicated around the world, and she has appeared on American Movie Classics cable television. In addition, her celebrity interviews and articles have been published in REDBOOK, PLAYBOY, FAMILY CIRCLE, COSMOPOLITAN, WORKING WOMAN and THE NEW YORK TIMES, as well as in PARIS MATCH, ELLE, HELLO, CARIBBEAN WORLD, ISLAND LIFE, MACO DESTINATIONS, NEWS LIMITED NEWSPAPERS (Australia), UK DAILY MAIL, UK SUNDAY MIRROR, DS (France), LA REPUBBLICA (Italy), BUNTE (Germany), VIP TRAVELLER (Krisworld) and many other international publications through SSG Syndicate. Susan also lectures on the "Magic and Mythology of Hollywood" and "Don't Take It Personally: Conquering Criticism and other Survival Skills," originally published on tape by Dove Audio.