Film: Win Win
Cast includes: Paul Giamatti (Sideways), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone), Bobby Cannavale (The Station Agent), Jeffrey Tambor (There’s Something About Mary), Burt Young (Rocky), Alex Shaffer (his first film)
Writer/Director: Thomas McCarthy (The Station Agent)
Genre: Quirky Comedy (2011)
In brief: The tree in the front yard is about to fall on the house, the boiler in the office is about to blow and the toilet doesn’t flush. Mike Flaherty’s law practice is so slow that he can’t afford to take care of any of it. No wonder he’s stressed out. His doctor recommends running, as a way of dealing with stress. But Paul knows what he really needs is money. It’s hard not to get discouraged. Coaching the high school wrestling team could be a pleasant diversion, if the team ever won… which it doesn’t. Mike will take on just about any legal case to make a few dollars. That’s why he has clients like Leo Poplar. “If the court finds you incompetent, you’ll need to have a legal guardian,” he tells Leo. They need to find Leo’s daughter, but she seems to have dropped off the face of the earth.
When Mike notices that being Leo’s court-appointed guardian will pay $1500 a month, he asks for the job… promising to keep Leo in his home. “You can do that?” the judge asks. “Yes, I can,” Mike promises. But in no time, Mike delivers the old man to Oak Knoll Senior Care. While stopping by Leo’s house to check on things, Mike finds a strange-looking teenager on the front step. It’s Kyle, Leo’s grandson. (Leo never even knew he had a grandson.) Mike and Jackie can’t leave the kid on the street, so they make up a bed in the basement. Jackie hopes he isn’t dangerous. He doesn’t talk, he smokes and he’s probably on drugs, she thinks. “And what’s with the hair?” As it turns out, the kid has a talent… wrestling. “You’re helping the old man out. The kid is like a bonus for doing the right thing,” his friend tells him. Could this be a win-win situation?
If Mike, plus his friends and family, can get Kyle in school and on the wrestling team… and keep him there… things could be looking up. But as the plot thickens, including the appearance of Leo’s long-lost daughter, Mike is torn between what’s best for himself and what’s best for the peculiar teenager. Win Win is a quirky, fresh comedy with a lot of chuckles. First-time actor, Alex Shaffer as Kyle is strangely endearing, and Paul Giamatti as Mike wins our sympathy. There’s a refreshing simplicity in the filmmaking style, dialog and the way this story plays out.
3 popped kernels
Fresh, quirky and heart-warming comedy… a win-win movie
Primary Audience: Grown-ups
Gender Appeal: Any audience
Distribution: Mainstream limited release and growing
Tempo: Cruses comfortably
Visual Style: Unvarnished realism
Character Development: Engaging
Language: True to life