Review – Win Win

To quote Mr. Keating from ‘Dead Poets Society’, “devotees may argue that one game or sport is inherently better than another. For me the most important thing in all sport is the way other human beings can push us to excel”. ‘Win Win’ puts into action what Mr. Keating was yabbering about.

Mike (Paul Giamatti) is a lawyer who is drowning in debt. He puts on a brave face for his wife, Jackie (Amy Ryan), and his friends, Terry (Bobby Cannavale) and Stephen (Jeffery Tambor), as well as the small high school wrestling team he coaches. He becomes the guardian of an elderly client Leo (Burt Young) in order to claim the financial benefits, but when Leo’s teenage grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up unexpectedly his plan is thrown into turmoil. But when Kyle steps into the wrestling ring things start to change.

‘Win Win’ is the perfect mix of humour and heart. A dry wit runs through the film and there are big laughs. The writing is clever and the film never resorts to cheap gags.

The characters are given time to develop and they’re a colourful bunch that complement each other well. It’s refreshing to see characters that represent a real family and each role is well cast.

The way director Thomas McCarthy uses the sport of wrestling (not the fake stuff) to bring all the characters together and push the story forward is a master stroke. It emphasises the importance of community and how it brings us together and makes us better people.

I usually don’t like Giamatti’s loser guy act, but he manages to stay reserved and give a good down to earth performance. Ryan, Tambor and Young are excellent and Cannavale is hilarious. So far, 2011 has been the year for kid actors (see ‘Super 8’ and ‘Tree of Life’) and Shaffer stamps his authority and emerges as a talent to keep an eye on.

‘Win Win’ drifts into melodramatic territory towards the end, but has a satisfying conclusion that adds to the warmth of the film. It doesn’t pander to the sickly sweet endings of most family dramas.

‘Win Win’ is a hidden gem that should be discovered by all.



The Popcorn Junkie