Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Win Win

At times, it’s difficult for me to come up with the right words to describe what I think about a movie. Case in point: Director/writer Thomas McCarthy’s newest film Win Win—is it brilliant, funny, heartfelt, magnificent, incredible and fantastic? Perhaps one word best sums it up—perfect. Win Win is a classic example of how to make a film that’s entertaining, thought-provoking, and flat out funny.

I love independent films. There’s something utterly fascinating about people, places and situations that seem routine and normal. But we really know there is nothing normal in everyday life. Win Win looks and feels routine like something that we know. That’s because it is. The people look real, and the places seem normal compared to most typical hyped up Hollywood blockbusters that portray beautiful people and beautiful places. Paul Giamatti who plays Mike Flaherty is like the guy next door who gets up every morning and leaves for work.

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a New Jersey attorney and high school wrestling coach who’s been on a endless losing streak. He’s a nice guy who’s under a ton of financial pressure. Along comes an opportunity to short-circuit the system. An elderly client Leo Poplar (Burt Young) has been declared incapable of caring for himself due to early dementia. Mike seizes the moment and becomes his guardian; however, the questionable move could cost him dearly.

Little does Mike realize that he will soon be drawn into the family affairs of his client Leo Poplar. Arriving on the doorstep of Poplar’s home is runaway teenager Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer) his grandson from Columbus, Ohio. Things start to get complicated as Mike takes in the runaway teenager to live in his home.

But there could be a win win after all. As the film’s tag line states, in the game of life, you can’t lose them all. Mike finds out that Kyle was runner-up in the State wrestling finals back in Ohio. Flaherty’s wrestling team has been on a losing streak as long as anybody can remember. But that’s about to change—but for how long? Kyle’s mother fresh from rehab shows up, and everything starts to unwind.

Did I say that I absolutely love this movie? It’s really funny in a quiet way. The performances are outstanding not only from Paul Giamatti but also from the entire supporting cast. All of the characters are well written and display a great amount of depth. I especially like Amy Ryan who plays Mike’s wife Jackie, his best friend Terry Delfino played by Bobby Cannavale, and of course Kyle. And don’t forget Burt Young whom you might remember from the Rocky franchise.

Win Win is a journey into the game of life and tackles some interesting issues, such as trust and honesty. For once, it’s refreshing to see a family that isn’t completely dysfunctional and hopeless. The Flaherty’s may have some issues, but they are trying to navigate their way through. Sometimes teenagers just need a second chance, which I think is the driving theme of this film. Win Win is the great example of the power of a redemptive film.

For some Christians, the R rating will be a problem. But there is only some minor language issue. I don’t think it should be a deterrent to you seeing this movie because it offers an overall positive message. Frankly, I hate the rating system because sometimes an R-rated movie that is more appropriate is viewed in a negative light compared to some PG-13 movies that are inappropriate and contain heavy doses of sexuality and violence.

If you are a fan of off-beat comedy and enjoy movies that are heartfelt, I think you are going to find Win Win a winner. This film presents an honest look at life, not a sappy make-believe story. It offers real hope and is a refreshing change of pace.

Here’s the deal. When you go the rental store (if you still do that), you’ll see a hundred copies of the latest Hollywood blockbuster. And maybe if you are lucky, there will be a couple copies of Win Win. Don’t let that deter you from thinking Win Win is not a movie worthy of your consideration. Take the road less traveled. Take a copy of Win Win home.

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