Friday, March 18, 2011

Movie with Abe: Win Win

Win Win
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Released March 18, 2011

Only one month after presenting a winning indie comedy, Fox Searchlight is back with another certifiable success. The third film from director Thomas McCarthy is considerably lighter than his two not-so-heavy previous films, “The Visitor” and “The Station Agent.” It combines the best aspects of those two films, including a tight, wonderful cast and detailed, complicated, ordinary characters, to create a fun and simply delightful film about a small-town family that gets an unexpected visitor whose presence shakes up and invigorates their lives.

Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer star in the film

Paul Giamatti has played a number of memorable characters over the past few years since graduating from the Hey! It’s That Guy! distinction of playing “hypertensive screamers commanding the audience’s reluctant sympathy.” In “Win Win,” he delivers his most natural performance yet as everyman Mike Flaherty, a lawyer and wrestling coach who realizes he just can’t make ends meet. A situation with a client and the sudden appearance of the client’s grandson begin to change things for Mike and his family. Giamatti does a great job of making Mike into an entirely endearing character, even if some of his actions and choices are somewhat questionable.

Stars Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan discuss the film at a press conference

Giamatti is supported by an able and diverse cast. Amy Ryan, who has recently found success playing Holly on “The Office,” is equally relatable as devoted wife and mother Jackie, who doesn’t digest the events of her life in the film quite as easily and willingly as Mike does. Bobby Cannavale, a McCarthy favorite who earned positive mentions for his performance in “The Station Agent,” is energetic and hilarious as Mike’s attention-hungry best friend Terry. Screen veterans Jeffrey Tambor and Burt Young shine in small roles as Mike’s co-worker and his client, respectively. A great breakthrough performance can also be seen from Alex Shaffer, a real-life wrestler making his film debut as Kyle, the newest arrival to the Flaherty family.

Giamatti and Ryan in a scene from the film

There’s an authenticity to “Win Win” that results thanks to a combination of sharp writing by McCarthy and co-scribe Joe Tiboni and believable, authentic acting from the entire cast. It’s hardly a film where everyone is likeable, yet there’s a sense of understanding that exists throughout the film and between all of its characters that there is a legitimate explanation to all of their behaviors. There’s a smart and successful mix of wrestling and story that results in an entertaining, uplifting, and strong movie that is equal parts sports film and family film.


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