11 April 2011

Win Win

I was a wrestler all fours years of my high school career. I just thought I would let you in on that. I might have a slightly biased opinion. With those caveats, I loved this movie. Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, UP) brought another great story to the screen. Win Win follows the stressed out life of Mike Flaherty. Paul Giamatti puts in an excellent job as the down on his luck attorney and high school wrestling coach. I do not know if McCarthy was a wrestler or not, but he did a great job capturing the brotherhood, atmosphere, and lifestyle of it. Part of that could be attributed to Alex Shaffer. This is his first acting role, but he was New Jersey State High School Wrestling Champion in 2010. That could be why the wrestling seemed more real and authentic than Vision Quest.

As soon as I saw the trailer for this film, I knew that I had to see it. I stalked the movie sites for weeks waiting for it to hit any theater in St. Louis. Finally, this Friday it opened. I took the wife with me, and off we went. I am not going to mention the theater by name, but suffice it to say, I only go to this theater when I have to.

Win Win opens with Mike going for a jog. A slow jog. Almost a walk. We then go back to his house and meet one of his two daughters, and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan). When Mike shows up to work, his boiler is about to explode, and his law practice partner and wrestling assistant coach Stephen Vigman (Tambor) decides to get rolls of plastic to protect the files in the basement in lieu of replacing the boiler. Their practice is not making a lot of money and cannot afford it.

Mike’s secretary Shelly makes a comment about being the guardian of Leo Poplar would pay $1,500 a month. Leo is an elderly man in the early stages of dementia and played perfectly by Rocky’s own Uncle Paulie, Burt Young. So, in a moment of weakness, Mike says he will be the guardian. Leo’s only living family is his estranged daughter who cannot be found. Kyle (Shaffer) shows up at Leo’s house looking for his Grandfather that he has never met. Mike and Jackie take him in.

It turns out that Kyle is a great wrestler, who can help Mike and Vigman’s pathetic wrestling team. Kyle also bonds with his grandfather. When his mother shows up, she threatens to derail everything.

What is so fantastic about this movie is the story and the script. Tom McCarthy crafts a story with very round, layered characters. Each character has a purpose, and a backstory that gives them that purpose. I teared up once or twice in the film. I won’t lie. I blame that on the fact that I wrestled. For this to be Alex’s first acting role, I look forward to what else this young guy has to offer. Win Win is a very entertaining, endearing movie. I actually paid full price, which was an atrocious $18 for me and the wife, to see this film. I am happy to say, it was money well spent, but I could buy the Blu-Ray for that. I would love to see this movie do well in the theaters. 5/5

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