Projections - Movie Reviews
With Jim Sabatini

Win Win

Win Win
Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor

Rated: R 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: March 18, 2011 Released by: Fox Searchlight Pictures

A crowd-pleaser with a nice touch of humanity at its core is Tom McCarthy's Win Win.
Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor, the director The Visitor makes a lot out of what could have ended up as small-screen programming. It works off of vulnerability and loneliness, also a part of his oddly effective debut film behind the camera The Station Agent (which also saw Cannavale perform solid backup).
Here, Giamatti (showing much range in the recent biopic Barney's Version) is again very watchable as an oily, put-upon attorney, Mike Flaherty, who suffers an anxiety attack early on during a jog.
In the mindful, unsentimental tale by McCarthy from a story collaborated with Joe Tiboni, Mike's New Jersey practice is hardly flourishing as he's strapped to make necessary renovations/repairs at business and home while moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach. For the latter, there's pressure with wife Jackie (a noticeable moral presence in Ryan) and a couple of young girls.
After Mike volunteers to accept the guardianship of one Leo Popular (Burt Young) declared by the state as having early dementia, he also makes a precarious decision in taking on a teen, Kyle (newcomer Alex Sheffer), with considerable wrestling ability.
Without the kind of overwrought, rah-rah sequences manifested in studio pictures, Win Win has credible conflict from the 16-year-old's rehabbing, estranged mom Cindy (Melanie Lynskey of The Informant) wanting him back with her.
McCarthy generates some good wrestling scenes as Shaffer (who's been wrestling in real-life nearly all his life) shows some natural acting aplomb opposite the seasoned Giamatti as the film opens up dramatically as Mike takes more than a passing interest in the troubled Kyle. The candor of a gritty modestly budgeted picture also benefits from spot-on work by Ryan (Jack Goes Boating) as well as the reliable Tambor (delightfully deadpan currently in Paul). Cannavale registers with chatty comic mustard as another professionally strained fellow wrestling instructor and friend of Mike's, Terry.
There's not much of a losing proposition in what is wisely observed and laced with wit as not all who work in the field that Mike and Terry do live large. Even if the definition of this overall portrait may not always be convincing (as in the case of the aging Leo) what was filmed in Rockville Center, New York, an integrity and accounting of everyday life where drastic steps often are made is profitably broken down.

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