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Win Win (2011)
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Writers: Thomas McCarthy, Joe Tiboni
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, Alex Shaffer, Margo Martindale, David W. Thompson, Mike Diliello, Nina Arianda, Marcia Haufrecht, Sharon Wilkins, Clare Foley, Penelope Kindred, Sophia Kindred, Tim Ransom
Synopsis: Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.
MPAA Rating: R for language
One of the best films of the year
"Win Win" may not set any records this year when it comes to box office revenue, and it certainly won't appeal to most mainstream audiences either. However, if you're looking for a truly great film that offers a deep story with complex characters, then you'll definitely love this movie. Seriously, the film pretty much offers everything a movie fan could want. It has deep characters, a thought provoking story, and a lot strong performances. The film stars Paul Giamatti (Mike Flaherty), who is arguably one of Hollywood's most under rated actors, and he's definitely at the top of his game in this movie.
Although lately, it does seem that most of Paul Giamatti's roles tend to type cast him as the neurotic nervous guy, he plays the part rather well. Even when Mike Flaherty is forced to do things that would make anyone seem like a jerk, he still manages to portray his character with a strong sense of likability, and conviction. This works rather well in Paul Giamatti's favor, as the character is forced to do a few questionable acts in order to ensure the survival of his family. Yet, when the time comes to redeem himself, the audience can't help but root for his character.
The film essentially follows a struggling lawyer, who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach. After double crossing one of his clients to help ease his financial situation, he ends up taking in a teenage boy that happens to be the grandson of the very same client he cheated. Although, I know some people might think that Mike is a real a**hole for cheating one of his clients, but with the way the film is set up, you can never really hate the guy. Unlike most films where the lines between right and wrong are well defined, "Win Win" shows us that we're all vulnerable to crossing lines of morality; in spite of having good intentions. Sure, Mike cheated one of his clients, but he also gave his grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) a home, as he takes refuge from living with his manipulative mother that's only interested in her own financial concerns.
As luck would have it, Mike's wrestling team isn't that good to say that least. Fortunately, Kyle just happens to be a former wrestler himself, and he's really good at it too. From here, Mike becomes sort of a second father figure Kyle; offering him shelter and treats him as a part of his own family. Unfortunately like all films of this ilk, Kyle inevitably finds out about what Mike did to his grandfather; along with finding out that his mom trying to do the exact same thing to the poor fellow. From this point, Mike's entire family becomes disgusted by his actions, as he's forced to do a lot of soul searching about his situation, while thinking about what's best for Kyle's future. In the end, it forces him to make a huge sacrifice in order to not only right the wrong that he did to Kyle's grandfather, but to ensure Kyle's future as well.
Like I said before, I doubt seriously this film will appeal to most mainstream movie goers, as the film tends to drag it's feet at times. However, it's one of those rare movies that touches upon the realities of life. Showing us that sometimes in life we're often forced to do a lot of things we're not proud of doing to support ourselves, or even our own families. However, when things get tough, it also shows a side of life where we sometimes must make sacrifices to ensure the future of our loved ones.
Granted, the film tends to drag it's feet a few times, as it suffers from obvious pacing issues. But, it never rushes past developing it's key characters, as most of them are very deep and layered; with the notable exception of Kyle's mother and Stephen Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor), who happens to be one of Mike's assistant coaches. "Win Win" also allows for the relationships between the characters to develop naturally, without the needless cliches that most comedies suffer from. If anything, you could almost sense a genuine relationship from each of these characters, as they felt like real people with everyday issues. Rather than portraying this movie as a phony over the top Hollywood cliche comedy, this film chooses substance over flash, and I wouldn't want it any other way.
"Win Win" is truly a great film in it's own right, as the story is arguably one of the best written this year. Truly worthy of an Oscar nomination, as far as I'm concerned. Plus, I loved the tone of this movie, as Thomas McCarthy does an excellent job of coming up with the perfect mesh of comedic drama that's not only witty, but it's also genuinely heartfelt at the same time.
If you're looking for a great drama that not only portrays a deep story about life, with genuine characters that you can relate to on a personal level, then this is definitely a must see. I highly recommend it for anyone that loves watching dramatic comedies. Overall, I'd have to give this movie a three and a half out of four. As I said earlier, this isn't exactly a movie that will appeal to most mainstream audiences, but it's definitely one of the best films of the year.