Images from The Way Back (Gavin O’Connor, 2020)

This hybrid of an underdog teen sports movie with a middle-aged man-in-crisis film is worse than a downer. It’s an up-and-downer. Brad Inglesby’s script careens between a misfit hoops team ultimately battling for a championship, kindling fleeting sparks of rah-rah energy, and first-time coach and former high school star Jack Cunningham (Ben Affleck) succumbing to personal despair and alcohol and strangling his own comeback.

In movie-of-the-week form, The Way Back introduces us to Jack as both a hard-drinking Los Angeles construction worker and a delinquent, affable uncle arriving late for Thanksgiving dinner. He rolls his eyes when his disapproving host, his well-meaning, middle-class sister (Michaela Watkins), suggests he might have warned her about his tardiness. (She goads because she cares.) He reacts with fury to her news that his estranged yet…

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