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random reviews and other thoughts

Giamatti Film Is a Total “Win Win”

I hate it when good films go unseen. “Win Win” was one of the best films of 2011 that almost no one saw. It’s a small film about a man doing his best to help his family get by. It’s funny, heartwarming, and a film worth seeking out.

Paul Giamatti stars as Mike Flaherty, a struggling New Jersey lawyer with a loving wife (Amy Ryan) and two young children. To pay his monthly bills he also coaches a losing wrestling at the local high school.

When one of his elderly clients, Leo, is forced by the courts to either find a full-time guardian or move into a retirement home, Mike makes the not so ethical decision to become Leo’s guardian for the extra $1500 and put him in the home anyway. Then Leo’s grandson Kyle pops up, Mike lets Kyle move-in with him till he can track down his mother (Melanie Lynskey).

Turn’s out Kyle was an all-state wrestler back in Ohio and when he joins the team things finally start looking up for Mike. Until Kyle’s mom shows up and exposes Mike and his lies and turns everybody’s world upside down.

What made this story was the story. It’s a touching story about the choices we make, no matter how good our intentions, and the consequences that follow. Mike is a good man. He loves his family and just wants to do right by them. He’s not malicious and feels genuine guilt about Leo. He also wants Kyle to succeed, not just because it helps the team, but because he wants the boy to do well.

There is a sense of truth and realness to the story which is brought by the cast. Giamatti is a kind of everyman. Here, you know this guy, you like him and feel his pain. Ryan is the perfect compliment to him. She’s loving and strong and endlessly supportive even when she thinks Mike is crazy.

Newcomer Alex Shaffer grounds the whole thing as Kyle. He’s a quite kid who knows he’s good without being cocky. He knows he wins when his team wins and is constantly trying to help out his teammates. Jeffery Tambor and Bobby Cannavale turn in strong supporting performances as Mike’s friends and co-coaches.

Though predictable, “Win Win” steers clear of the sappy and finds a good balance of humor and tenderness. If you’re a fan of good story, it’s definitely worth a watch.

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