SXSW Film: Win Win

Win Win hits the nail on the head when it comes to creating a nearly perfect film. I’ll say right off that I enjoyed the simplicity and honesty this film ran on. So many films anymore have to have a hidden agenda or some greater meaning, Win Win gets down to the basics of the core family and the struggles that nearly every family in America has faced in one time or another.

Win Win stars Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a struggling lawyer in a sunny, beautiful suburb in New Jersey with plenty of time on his hands. He spends mornings running with his long time friend Terry (Bobby Cannavale) trying to avoid panic attacks, then heads to work where he spends the day cleaning his desk and fixing the toilet. After work he coaches a high school wrestling team, which stinks.

An opportunity arises to take legal guardianship of an older man because it would be a bonus $1500.oo a month in Mike’s pocket. It’s a little illegal but he really needs the money. In the event of taking in this gentleman, his grandson drops into his life and seems a bit troubled. Kyle (Alex Shaffer) is a runaway from Ohio, running from his addict Mom (Melanie Lynskey) and ends up staying with Mike and his family. The teenage boy seems rebellious at first glance with his bleached blonde hair, strange random tattoos and affinity for smoking, but is completely kind, stoic and respectable once they get to know him a bit.

When Mike brings Kyle to his wrestling practice one day, he finds out that not only did Kyle wrestle back in Ohio, he’s a wrestling savant. From there the story focuses more on Kyle and his matches in the tournaments, until his mother finds him. And remember how I said that Mike taking legal guardianship was a little illegal in the beginning? Well that comes back to bite him in the ass as well. What makes this story so great is that every part of it seems so real. It seems like you literally know this family and watching their struggles hits home.

Director Thomas McCarthy may be known more frequently for his acting roles in 2012 and Meet the Parents, and I too recognized him more for those jobs. However, McCarthy has a future in directing with simple beautiful stories such as Win Win. He discovered Alex Shaffer, as they needed someone for the role that really wrestles.

Alex Shaffer may have a future in acting too, if he wanted. He was such a charming young man in character, and certainly funny in person. However, I can’t forget Amy Ryan as Mike’s wife Jackie. She was such a little spitfire and you can’t help but fall in love with her character. She is caring, and guarded, protective of her family, but easily accepting of new members as she does with Kyle. Everyone was perfectly cast in this film from Jeffery Tambor to Bobby Cannavale, but by far the biggesst emotional attachment I had was to Paul Giamatti’s character Mike.

Paul Giamatti only gives 200% when he picks a project and seeing him stick up for his family and then take in Kyle and protect him like his own was tear-worthy. What makes this film so down to earth is the final scene, which I won’t ruin for you. Seeing an ending that is real and not a Hollywood-feel-good ending is kind of refreshing. It leaves us thinking about our own futures and if we are doing the right things in our lives. Since I have seen the film a while back, I have been itching to see it again. I urge you to go out and see the film yourself, then let me know if you too enjoyed the film as much as I did.

I give Win Win 5 “random tattoos” out of 5

by Angela Davis

About Angela

Angela is the Editor-in-Chief of Lost in Reviews. She and Ryan created Lost in Reviews together in 2009 out of a mutual hatred for all the stodgy old farts currently writing film reviews. Since launching the site, Angela has enjoyed reviewing indie films over all other films, picking up new music from all corners of the world and photographing live shows. She is the co-host of Blu Monday and a member of the Kansas City Film Critic Circle.

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