Win Win

Win Win

In Theatres: 
Mar 18, 2011
Running Time: 
106 min

Boasting a great supporting cast and an incredible chemistry between Giamatti and Shaffer, Win Win comes out as an extremely enjoyable story

 Everyone has their one special talent that makes them different than most people. Whether it's being the fastest runner in the state or the ability to eat 50 hotdogs in 10 minutes, these talents are what others see us for. But what happens when that talent is hidden by a less-than fortunate home-life? Kyle (Alex Shaffer) knows exactly how this feels in the new Fox Searchlight film, Win Win. 

In Win Win, Lawyer/Local high school wrestling coach Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) finds himself in a bit of a rut. He has a loving wife, Jackie (Amy Ryan), and two beautiful daughters, but his firm is turning into a ghost town, his finances are low and his stress is causing health problems as days go by. After making a questionable decision on one of his clients, Leo Poplar (Burt Young), Mike finds himself with a new responsibility in taking care of Poplar's grandson, Kyle. While his grandfather is checked into a retirement home, Kyle is offered to stay a few days with the Flaherty's until his mother can pick him up from out of state. Once enrolled in the local high school, Kyle soon reveals his talent in the sport of wrestling. Realizing Kyle's potential, Mike offers to take him all the way up to State finals. But once Kyle's mother shows up, everything they have worked towards could be torn down. 

On paper, Win Win seems like a different twist on the blockbuster hit, The Blind Side. And in ways, it is. But Director Thomas McCarthy brings such life to the characters that audiences won't be able to focus on any story other than the one handed to them by McCarthy. Every character in this indie-hit leaps off the screen with personality and humor. Terry (Will & Grace's Bobby Cannavale), stands out as the quirky and bitter best friend and former wrestling teammate of Mike's. Rounding out the supporting cast is Arrested Development's Jeffrey Tambor and The Office's Amy Ryan. While both incredibly great character actors, Tambor remains the container of most of the film's laughs while Ryan brings the warmth and heart as a mother who treats every child as her own. But make no mistake, this film belongs to the duo of Alex Shaffer and Paul Giamatti. 

I've always been a fan of Giamatti. Together, we've been through good times (this year's Barney's Version) and bad times (Fred Claus). But regardless of the film's outcome, Giamatti stood out as a man capable of bringing every emotion possible out of his audience. In Win Win, his track record isn't harmed. At all. While playing both a husband with no clear game plan and a father with everything under control, Giamatti brings incredible depth to Mike and makes his audience believe that this is a man who does his best and can still fail. By himself, the character of Mike is enough to deeply enjoy Win Win, but it's the combination of Mike and Kyle that light up the screen with great emotion. Kyle's troubled past is clearly present in his solitarian existence. Unless spoken to, he keeps to himself and goes with the motions. Just exactly happened to him isn't easily deciphered, but whatever it may be is something that has deeply affected his social manner. Once Mike enters his life, Kyle finds friendship and stability in him and develops a strong bond of trust that is rare between most characters seen in film recently. The fantastic thing about Win Win is it doesn't ever announce that Kyle needs a father and finds one in Mike. Sure, the figure of a father would help Kyle straighten up a good bit, but it's the acceptance of what Kyle's past has done to his social manner that allows Mike and Kyle to be as close as they become. 

The only downside to Win Win would have to be a rushed ending that seemed to end one story, instead of  wrapping all of the issues together to form a solid completion. It's a good ending, but numerous questions arise as to how certain things turned out and how each character is dealing with the consequences of their actions. Overall, though, most of our questions are answered and no person does something that is out of character for themselves. 

Boasting a great supporting cast and an incredible chemistry between Giamatti and Shaffer, Win Win comes out as an extremely enjoyable story of what's wrong, what's right and who we can be if we have the right people behind us. 


Make sure to follow Ryan on Twitter at: RynoAwesome. 

Ryan Sterritt
Review by Ryan Sterritt
Follow him @ Twitter
Friend him @ Facebook