Review: Win Win

Posted on August 13, 2011
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Recently, Paul Giamatti has had a knack for low profile, semi sappy-dramatic films, you can add Win Win to the list.

Another one of the limited release, only a handful of people got to see it, films, Win Win is about a struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach’s chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he’s double-crossed comes into his life.

Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, who lives a pretty normal life with a couple kids, runs his own business, takes care of his community and serves as a wrestling coach as his way to give back to the kids.

The main focus of Win Win is the strange, father-son like relationship between Flaherty and a straggling kid named Kyle, played by Alex Shaffer.

The story is a bit convoluted at times leaving you asking yourself “wait, how did this happen again?” but you just go with the flow.

The acting is done well here, and Shaffer plays troubled teen Kyle really well. Somehow I think he isn’t reaching too far into the actors wardrobe to pull out the performance.

Giamatti is always a hit, his worn down look and frustration is spot on and he can sell it with the best of them.

Jeffrey Tambor adds some humor into the mix and continues his old funny guy routine.

Mike Flaherty is essentially in the midst of a midlife crisis, it’s pretty apparent, but you don’t really feel it that strongly throughout the film. Things are a bit chaotic for Mike, while juggling his life, that when he puts Leo, played by Burt Young into a nursing home, and his grandson, Kyle ends up on his doorstep, it all just seems to flow.

Like I said, it’s a bit of a mush of a story.

Win Win is a character driven film, exploring how the middle class manage the random things life throws at them.

Kyle is a main focus point here, while being the grandson to Leo, he doesn’t have a place to stay so Mike and his family take him in. After a crazy story about his mother being unfit to take care of him, they need to find something to do with this kid.

Here is where the wrestling aspect comes in to play. Kyle sees Mike training his really bad school team and asks to join in. When Mike and his best friend, Terry, played by Bobby Cannavale, find out Kyle can wrestle and was one of the best at his weight class in Ohio, they ask him to join the team.

The wrestling really plays as an underlying tone for the film, coming to grips with reality and battling the struggles of everyday life, all can tie into wrestling as well.

Win Win is an honest film with an underdog story setting it’s foundation.

The funniest performance has to come from the sleeper of the film and that’s Amy Ryan, who plays a somewhat frustrated wife of Mike’s. She’s loving, yet equal parts angry and annoyed at the situation that’s been thrown her way, who wouldn’t when a teenage boy is just plopped in your lap.

Giamatti continues to deliver and prove how versatile he is.

This isn’t your typical film, and it won’t really leave you all warm and cuddly inside, but it’s a good story without the cookie cutter nonsense we are fed far too often.

Rating: 7/10