Win Win (2011)

Posted by Maria Mills | Posted on 5:25 PM | Posted in


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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 9.4/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 8/10

WIN WIN (2011) - Thomas McCarthy

There are times when one must do what he believes to be best for his family. Sometimes it begins clouding his once-clear vision of what is right and what is wrong. And rarely we, as an audience, get to have a peek at these realistic issues in small towns within America, in a state like New Jersey.

Win Win centers on Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a middling lawyer who is unable to make ends meet and is unfortunately low on money. He loves his family and wife (Amy Ryan) but despises his job, an aggravatingly torturous occupation in which he is unable to afford repairing the boiler in his office, and going down to his knees fixing a toilet. He works as a wrestling coach at the local high school, call it a hobby or chance for him to escape into his past life. Coaching with him is Stephen (Jeffrey Tambor) and his best friend Terry (Bobby Cannavale). He has a client named Leo, who is slowly progressing towards Alzheimer's and refuses to live anywhere else except his own home. When Mike discovers in court that Leo's estate will pay $1,500 a month to a legal guardian, he takes the job himself yet immediately sends his client to a nursing home for his own easiness. The situation becomes unexpectedly complicated when Kyle (Alex Shaffer), Leo's grandson, runs away from home and hopes to live with his grandfather, but ends up living under the same roof as Mike and his family.

Paul Giamatti is a brilliant actor, as humorous as he is honest. He remains throughout the film as a steadily sympathetic character, even when he commits an appalling unethical act that drives the plot. With Mike Flaherty's character, Paul Giamatti was able to depart from his somber characters in his past movies. Despite the entire film bearing a comedy sitcom atmosphere, the amusement is indeed the heart of this piece. The drama is not forced, and the narrative is straightforward and easy enough to convince. Win Win is Alex Shaffer's first film as an actor, and here it is very clear that he still has much to improve. However, his stiff robotic enunciation of words enhances his actual personality in the film. His awkwardly small facial features and flat expressions makes us conflicted in his character. Is he one who we should help or is he too damaged for us to trust him? With Amy Ryan as the headstrong perfect mother, and Cannavale and Tambor playing a hilarious comedy duo, Win Win wins over its audiences' heart with its emotions and laughs.

Tom McCarthy, writer of Pixar's Up, is a great American humanist. He has a great sensibility and he tangles with common situations in remote towns without becoming tied up and at the same time, pulls off a hopeful sensation to it without forcing the emotion to the audience. The true irony of Win Win is that the entire piece consisted of situations that one would not call "winning". It is clever, witty, funny, and a delight to watch.

In conclusion, Win Win triumphs with its story. It deals with an issue that could not be more relevant than issues we face today: When it comes to survival, where do we draw the line of ethics between what's right and what's wrong? This very question is the crux of Win Win, and this is what enables us to emotionally connect to McCarthy's piece. With the help of a fine cast, Win Win is extremely satisfying. It is a portrait of honesty that exhibits the average American at his most flawed and most ethical stage in life. Rich in performances and populated with engaging humor, Win Win is a winner for independent films.


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