[REVIEW] ‘The Way Back’ or A Portrait of an Alcoholic

Before the world shut down I had the chance to see the new film The Way Back in the theater. I was pretty excited for this film because I love underdog sports movies and director Gavin O’Connor has made 2 of my favorites: Miracle and Warrior (which was best picture worthy if you ask me). Now we have The Way Back and it turned out to be a very surprising film. It’s not perfect but definitely worth a watch if only for Ben Affleck’s raw and intimate performance.

On the surface The Way Back is very similar to the sports classic Hoosiers. Both films are about scrappy underdog basketball teams and both have deeply wounded coaches with troubled pasts. (There’s even a scene where the coach fires a player for rudeness at the beginning of each film). However, the difference between the films is The Way Back is less a redemption story and more a portrait of the life of an alcoholic mid-addiction. In fact, some people might be frustrated at how little this film is about basketball.

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Especially knowing Affleck’s own history with addiction his performance in The Way Back is completely devastating. As he struggles to appear normal throughout the day you see the ache in his eyes and the pull the alcohol has in its momentary release from life’s problems. Affleck’s character has a backstory that makes him susceptible to drowning his addiction and the further he spirals the more I found myself rooting for his character- rooting that he could find a way out of this terrible disease.

I have lost 2 of my cousins to the traps of addiction and so much of The Way Back was hard to watch. I cried a lot as the film provides no easy answers and does not sugarcoat things at all. It is very tough but rewarding for Affleck’s tremendous performance.

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In fact, his performance was so good I found myself not caring much about the basketball. The weight of who won the big game felt inconsequential in comparison with the life and death struggle of Affleck’s character. I almost wish they hadn’t made his job matter at all to the plot because the 2 types of storytelling (addiction drama and underdog sports movie) didn’t gel well together. Also the story would have meant a little more if it was based off of a true story and not fiction.

All that said, the addiction drama stuff is really good and Affleck gives a tremendous performance. The Way Back is definitely worth checking out for that alone. Almost every family in America is impacted by addiction in one form or another so most should be able to relate to this broken man fighting a seemingly insurmountable battle with his demons.

7 out of 10

smile worthy

 

 

Gone Girl Review

gone girlDefinitely going to ruffle feathers on this review.  When I got home from Comicon I decided to watch a movie last night and put on Gone Girl (trying to catch up).  Gone Girl is a very well made completely preposterous movie that I just couldn’t get behind.  I realize I’m in the minority on this one and I’m ok with that.

gone-girl-DF-01826cc_rgb.jpgIt’s very hard to talk about Gone Girl without giving away spoilers. Basically it is about a man named Nick played by Ben Affleck who’s wife played by Rosamund Pike is missing. A detective named Rhonda begins to suspect Nick of murdering his wife.

All the performances are good in Gone Girl.  It is well directed by David Fincher using his typical harsh lighting and overall style.

XXX PYLE GONE GIRL MOV JY 0466 .JPG A ENTI really loved the commentary it gives on our 24 hour news cycle although I’m not sure we needed two TV women in Missi Pyle and Sela Ward.  Carrie Coon, Neal Patrick Harris and Tyler Perry are all good in their various roles.  Of the entire cast I actually thought Pike was the weakest performance-wise.  Again, I know I’m in minority on that one. It was very predictable and one note.

sisterAll that said, the movie requires the viewer to accept a character makes and executes a plan with perfect precision, never making mistakes.  To me it was a preposterous twist I just couldn’t buy.  Nobody is that perfect.  It made the character a lot less interesting because he or she could do no wrong. And then the ending was bizarre and impossible to believe.  It made no sense given everything we have been told about either characters. There is no way. I was left thinking again and again throughout the movie ‘you’ve got to be kidding me’.

Because this particular character twist is so over-the-top their actions and story became very predictable. They are the psychopaths we’ve seen a million times in a million other movies (and law and order episodes for that matter).

Occasionally I will like a predictable movie that does what it’s trying to do well but usually that is because I bond with a character or it has special effects or other unique appeal. I didn’t have that in Gone Girl. It reminded me of a movie like The Village or Signs (not that bad) but slickly made, good performances but a plot that defies credibility and made me groan.

I just didn’t buy the plot so despite good performances and interesting commentary, the movie was in the end a frustrating experience.  I really didn’t care for it.

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I’d also say it is a hard R definitely adults only for sexuality, violence, blood, gore and language.

That said, I can see if you can go with the scheming and plan than you’d like the movie. I just couldn’t. Sorry…

Content Grade- D, Overall Grade- C

I have not read the book it was based and so don’t know how it relates to the story in the book.