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Win Win

2011 film directed by Thomas McCarthy

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  • Mar 27, 2011
Written and Directed by Thomas McCarthy
Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Alex Shaffer
Abby: Where’s Daddy?
Jackie: He’s running.
Abby: From what?
Thomas McCarthy’s latest film, WIN WIN, is a little movie about regular people in a small town. McCarthy is no stranger to championing the stories of the every man (perhaps best exemplified in his last film, THE VISITOR) and this time out, he has the most regular of the bunch at the helm. Paul Giamatti is Mike Flaherty, a local New Jersey lawyer struggling to make ends meet, who also works as a high school wrestling coach in an attempt to hold on to his youth. His situation seems to be getting increasingly dire despite his best efforts to turn things around and McCarthy makes it his mission to take the tiny eccentricities that make up Mike’s daily routine and turn them into humorous foibles that are supposed to make his plight more endearing and relatable. Unfortunately, in doing so, he also makes everything feel far less authentic than it needs to be.
Setting up Mike’s life is laborious. The father of two works too much and is not at home as often as he should be. His law practice is going through a slow period and the bills are piling up. Naturally then, as he is jogging in an effort to reduce his stress, he suffers a panic attack. In a desperate effort to get out from under everything, he takes on the care provider role of one of his older clients (Burt Young) to collect the commission that comes from it. Instead of actually providing the service though, he sticks him in an elderly care facility. He has to lie to a judge and his wife (Amy Ryan) in order to make this happen so you just know it isn’t going to end well for him. The obviousness of the set up also makes the wait for the demise quite noticeable. Meanwhile, the lightened tone makes it difficult to know whether any of this is meant to be taken seriously.
Mike’s questionable actions bring about inevitable complication in the form of his client’s grandson, Kyle (promising newcomer, Alex Shaffer), needing a place to stay. It just so happens that Kyle is a naturally gifted wrestler and his fierceness in the ring becomes a great source of inspiration for Mike. In one scene, Kyle explains his strategy to his team; when he’s pinned down to the ground, he does whatever is necessary to break out of that. The knowing look on Giamatti’s face when he hears this means that at one point, he will have to do the same. And as his lies drag him down further into trouble, McCarthy turns WIN WIN into some sort of morality tale about following the path of righteousness in order to succeed in life. The suggestion is that life is a game made up of winners and losers and that we can all be winners if we actually try to do right by ourselves. If only McCarthy had been more genuine himself, then maybe his film would have truly lived up to its name and it wouldn’t feel like McCarthy got pinned down to his own mat.

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March 27, 2011
You have my curiousty on this one. I amy see if I can catch a show during the weeknights. Thanks, Joseph!
March 30, 2011
It isn't a bad film by any means. There are strong performances but it just isn't terribly subtle and a bit of a disappointment considering how much I enjoyed the director's last work.
More Win Win (film) reviews
review by . September 04, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****     "Win Win" is a nice, gentle drama; and I needed that on this particular movie night. It isn't loud, it isn't insulting, and it's actually pretty good at what it does. I suppose I was drawn to it by its cast, but I got out of it much more than just a few performances. I actually invested quite a bit into it. Basically, it takes a perfectly normal story full of perfectly normal people, and engages us through both sympathy and the performances alone. There is …
review by . August 29, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
If you missed this one in theatres, you probably aren't alone.  I had never heard of it either when we found it on our cable providers on-demand list of new releases, and were sold by the trailer.  This is the kind of quiet movie made for and by adults that gets overlooked in the multi-screen megaplexes--no franchise, no remake, no graphic novel hero, no 3-D action hook means no 15-24 ticket sales means no screens available--a sad commentary on the current state of cinema which we …
review by . March 25, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
Star Rating:         So far as I can tell, seeing Win Win truly would be a win win situation; the producers and studio execs will delight at the increase in box office, and you will be watching one of the year’s best films. This is a warm, funny, intelligent, compelling, superbly cast treasure – one of those rare films in which a brain and a heart are at work. Like last year’s brilliant The Kids Are All Right, it tells a story that isn’t idealized …
review by . March 17, 2011
       Tom McCarthy’s new film Win Win is a comforting tale for these trying economic times. While the film has its heart in the right place, it ultimately lacks the energy it needs to be a “winner.”      Win Win stars Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty, a small-town New Jersey attorney struggling to find clients and work in the recession. Desperate for money to support his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) and two children, Mike becomes …
review by . March 17, 2011
posted in Movie Hype
'Win Win' 'Two Jews On Film' Agree - This Is One Winning Movie (Video)
'Win Win' directed by Tom McCarthy (The Station Agent & The Visitor) explores the depths and nuances of human relationships and shows us that in certain circumstances, even the most unlikely of characters can form a bond that will last a lifetime.      Attorney Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is your typical Everyman.  He has a  loving wife Jackie ( brilliant Amy Ryan) and two small kids who adore him.  The only thing Mike loves almost as much …
About the reviewer
Joseph Belanger ()
Ranked #24
Hello Lunchers. I am a thirty-something guy making his way in Toronto. I am a banker by day and a film critic the rest of the time. Sensitive, sharp and sarcastic are just a few words that start with … more
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From wikipedia:

The film was rated 90% "fresh" on Rotten Tomatoes in March 2011 and, based on 155 reviews, held a 94% favorable rating in January 2012. Its critical consensus states: "Rich, wonderful characters and strong performances populate Win Win, with writer/director Thomas McCarthy continuing to emerge as a great American humanist."[1]
Peter Travers of Rolling Stone gave the film 3.5 stars out of 4, calling the film a "gem, hilarious and heartfelt with a tough core that repels all things sappy", and "just about perfect."Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times gave it 3 out of 4 stars, writing "You have a funny situation, and there's some truth in it and unexpected characters, well-acted, and you may not have a great film but you enjoy watching it."Steven Rea of the Philadelphia Inquirer gave it 3 out of 4 stars, writing "[Giamatti] delivers a marvel of a performance—all the more so because we forget that he is performing." He concluded "Win Win doesn't quite hit the high notes of grace and revelation that The Station Agent and The Visitor achieved, but McCarthy and his able cast pull off a similar mix of humor and pathos, smiles and angst." Daniel Sarath from online blog New In Cinema gave it 4/5, stating "Win Win is visual evidence that a film doesn't have to be pushing boundaries or walking in uncharted territory to stand out from the crowd. As long as you have a talented ...
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