Ciné Coverage : Win Win (2011)

This review is a part of Split Reel’s coverage on the Espoo Ciné International Film Festival in Espoo, Finland (19.8.-28.8.).

Win Win is a cute, quirky comedy that finds its heart just in time.

One knows what to expect from Thomas McCarthy, director of indie hits Station Agent (2003) and The Visitor (2007). Working so out of the Hollywood comfort zone he’s approaching Canada, McCarthy’s Win Win continues a series of authentic, quirky and heartfealt comedies which triumphs and downfalls lies in its deflection from the Hollywood norm.

Paul Giamatti plays small town lawyer and volunteer head coach of the high school wrestling team who gets personally involved in the destiny of one of his clients. Short on cash Mike takes on Leo, a demented local whose daughter is nowhere to be found, and signs on as his guardian, promising to assume guardianship in order to keep Leo living in his own home. An overwhelming situation becomes even more so when Mike compromises his agreement by putting Leo in a home and when Leo’s grandson Kyle, (Alex Shaffer) shows up out of the blue.

With a stellar cast including Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale, Win Win still doesn’t manage to wow from the beginning. A mildly contrived situation starts of extremely slow and without high points.

Mike’s and the rest of the Flaherty’s life is truly boring. It’s real, but for a half an hour it’s almost mindnumbing to watch. It’s only half-way through when the eccentric characters’ chemistries mix, the humour becomes spot-on and the story rises to another level.

As Kyle is found to be an extensively great wrestler and Mike becomes increasingly invested in his future and wellbeing. Kyle is bringing long due attention to the school and by his accidental adoption finding a spot in the Flahetry-family’s heart. When Kyle’s mom Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) shows up to get her piece of the allowance, things start to unravel and Kyle’s new found success and happiness crumbles.

Giamatti’s Mike is a nice, wellrounded character, a loving family man, who has goals that he makes and sources of happiness, a nice change from his usual roles. Amy Ryan is as charming as usual, and there’s great, genuine, worn-down love between the two. Not everything is easy, but the Flaherty’s make one hell of a family unit, well, once Mike starts being honest to his wife, Jackie (Jersey girl, big BonJovi fan).

Win Win ends up being quite the gem, by no means ‘the most’ .. well anything out there. It is funny, but not hilarious. It’s sweet but not sickle. It’s got great performances, but the characters seem to remain a bit flawn-like, hard on the surface, soft in the middle. It’s interesting, but not that entertaining if I’m being honest.

It will absolutely find its audience, it’s unconventional, happy, it doesn’t lecture. It’s fun and light. I just felt like I couldn’t make out anything tangible out of it, there was nothing I could relate to, and it didn’t make me feel much of anything, except a bit tired and somewhat content.

Maybe there’s flaw in willing to be moved or excited about _everything_, and it takes away from the every-day, little things that make you happy, like Win Win.


You Will Like Win Win If…

– you liked McCarthy’s previous work and the likes of Chaos Theory, Little Miss Sunshine and Lars and the Real Girl.
– you like cup cakes. And collect kitschy things.


15 responses to “Ciné Coverage : Win Win (2011)

  1. Thoughtful, honest review. Also, this line: “Working so out of the Hollywood comfort zone he’s approaching Canada.” Love that line.

  2. Interesting. I have been a bit reluctant to check out this movie despite the general very positive reviews. I guess it’s that indie quality, the “not that entertaining” factor you mention ;)

    • Haha, you put it a bit harshly, but yeah, I mean indie films, especially this type of film, tend to be a bit self-indulgent in their non-mainstreamity. They want to by definition escape the usual ‘entertainment factors’, which by no means a bad thing! But when not doing what everyone else does becomes the most important thing …

      It’s a nice story though! But there’s really nothing about words like ‘sub-urbia’, ‘middle-aged’, ‘wrestling’, ‘defeated’, ‘custody battle of a pensioner’, ‘ordinary’, ‘family-life’, ‘subtle humour’ that really gets me pumping you know?

  3. I think I will like this one Anna, from what you are saying anyway.

    Loved Little Miss Sunshine, Loved Lars, Love Giamatti…..surely this is the film for me hey?

    Thanks for writing this one.

  4. I liked it quite a bit more than you did and didn’t think the first half an hour was boring. It was a nice setup to get to know the characters and set up their issues and the situation they are in. I liked the fact that it didn’t go all out, making everything grounded in reality.
    The closing of your review is nice…maybe I’m not as big of a thrill seeker as you ;)

    • I’m just such a crime buff that everything starts to seem pale in comparison haha. Stil, I’ve enjoyed even quiter and slower movies than this, there was just something about the set up that didn’t really grab my attention.

      • So that is the reason ;)

        I have sometimes have the same thing, if I’m not in the right set of mind a specific movie just can’t seem to grab my attention either.

  5. I loved this movie as one of my favorites this year. Given I haven’t bought it yet and I’ve already bought Hanna. I guess I liked Hanna more? Anyways I really enjoyed this film…then again I love ‘Little Miss Sunshine’.

  6. Pingback: Duke & The Movies :: featured :: With A Little Help From My Friends·

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