Monday, 23 May 2011

Film #48 Win Win

Paul Giamatti's third studio release this year (following the good-but-flawed Barney's Version and the by-all-accounts bonkers Ironclad) sees him playing Mike Flaherty, a schlubby but good-natured lawyer in New Jersey, struggling to make ends meet for himself, his wife (Amy Ryan) and their two children while putting hours in as a high-school wrestling coach. Opportunity knocks when he positions himself as salaried guardian of a senile client (Burt Young), subsequently chucking the old coot into a retirement community for minimum hassle. However this cushy situation quickly grows complicated as the old man's sixteen-year-old grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) - who, it turns out, has an unusual gift for wrestling - turns up out of the blue, on the lam from his substance-abusing mother.

So it's a classic 'good person makes a bad decision' movie, with a bit of family drama and buddy comedy thrown in. All the performances are great - especially Ryan and Shaffer - and the film really is very funny, with lot of the humour coming from the interaction between Giamatti and his two coaching buddies, eeyorish Vig (Jeffrey Tambor) and gung-ho Terry (Bobby Cannavale). Thomas McCarthy's direction is perhaps functional rather than stylish, but that's OK as it allows the well-crafted story (co-written by McCarthy) to take centre-stage.

Now, I'm not that well-up on any of McCarthy's back catalogue (though The Station Agent is high on my list of have-to-see-soon DVD rentals) so how this holds up against his other work, I'm not sure. As you'll have gathered thus far though, I liked this very much. OK, so it's not a life-changing movie, and it doesn't break any new ground but it was a highly pleasant way to spend 106 minutes. I cared about the characters, the plot made sense and I laughed a lot.

As sweet-natured family dramas go, Win Win is unlikely to be anyone's favourite film - but if you like your movies grown-up and thoughtful as well as funny you will be entertained and touched.

*******7/10 (seven and a half, if I could give half-marks).