Tom McCarthy’s “Win Win” is the kind of movie that I have been waiting for this year. It’s a movie that doesn’t need car chases or violence to convey its point. The most action it has is the occasional wrestling match. Through his script McCarthy blends the perfect amount of comedy and drama, creates natural, sometimes funny dialogue and overall an optimistic and feel good story.
None of the above would be possible with out a strong lead at the core of this bittersweet tale of bonding. Paul Giamatti gives a wonderful, heartfelt performance as Mike Flaherty, a small time attorney who’s down on his luck. He volunteers as the local high school wresting coach because he’s a kind hearted person who wants to do well by people. That’s also why he takes on the guardianship of an elderly man Leo (Burt Young).
This is when he meets with Kyle (Alex Shaffer) the grandson of Leo and whose mother is in rehab. Mike agrees to take in Kyle, who turns out to be an excellent addition to the wrestling team.
For a newcomer Shaffer gives a surprisingly convincing performance as a troubled but good spirited teen, and paired with Giamatti the two are a pleasure to watch. The circumstances give them a new motivation to keep living their mediocre lives.
However, things change when Kyle’s mom comes back into the picture, wanting to take back Kyle, her dad and the guardian money. The movie becomes more serious and conflicts between the characters ensue.
Luckily it never becomes too depressing, thanks to a terrific supporting cast consisting of Jeffery Tambor as the wrestling team assistant coach, Bobby Cannavale as Mike’s smug friend and Amy Ryan as Mike’s tough but caring wife. “Win Win” is an example of a movie where all the key components work well together