Skip to main content

Review: Win Win

Life is a fluid thing. You may keep above the water, but for the most part you just try to keep with the waves. Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is currently doggy paddling. Every time he turns around there is an expense for a few thousand dollars, his practice is currently stalling, the tree in the front of the yard needs to be removed and the high school wrestling team he coaches is terrible. Mike is in serious need of a win.

That opportunity comes along in the form of Leo Poplar (Burt Young), a former businessman who is currently suffering from dementia. The state is about to put him in a home, but Mike can become his guardian and make $1,500 a month in the process. His gut tells him it's wrong, but no one gets hurt and $1,500 a month could solve a lot of problems.

Just as Mike has thought he pulled out a victory, fate appears in the form of Leo's grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer, who masters the one-word response mentality of this generation). Mike finds Kyle sitting on a door stoop, blonde mop and all, trying to find his grandfather. Kyle's mother is in rehab and he could use a place to stay.

To Mike and Jackie's (Amy Ryan) delight, not only is Kyle a decent house guest, but he also is a natural wrestler. Things seem to be turning up again for Mike, money isn't an issue, Kyle is dominating his league, and the family dynamic seems to benefit from Kyle's addition. Yet things can never be that easy, so in comes the crest of the wave as Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) the mother from hell comes in and decides to play house.

Win Win is about finding the few opportunities in life to do the right thing and the thing that helps the most. What's most refreshing about the film is it presents a picture all to familiar in today's economy. One of the reasons why Tom McCarthy's film is such a pleasure to watch is the genuine interactions between the actors. Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan are exactly the type of people you would expect to be a married couple in a blue collar New Jersey town.

A comedy that can make people laugh without resorting to monkeys smoking cigarettes is truly something worth smiling about. Tom McCarthy is the humanist that cinema needs.

***1/2 out of ****

Popular posts from this blog

Review: Anomalisa

Weird is rarely used as a good quality in film criticism, but few words so completely describe Charlie Kaufman’s work as weird does. All of his films are a window into his very particular worldview, and that p.o.v. is certainly unlike anything seen in pop culture. For that reason, Anomalisa became an entry on many most anticipated lists for 2015. That Kaufman chose stop-motion to tell this story made the picture an event. So it came as a disappointment when the film was one of the year’s more mundane efforts.

Being John Malkovich and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind have an energy and heart at the center that is not present here. Previous collaborators like Spike Jonze and Michel Gondry were able to temper the overwhelming negativity Charlie Kaufman occasionally falls prey to, but, this time, the writer doesn’t have a director to rein things in. In all of his efforts to create an experience that is both familiar and alienating, Kaufman may have accidentally created something host…

Review: Selma

It may surprise many that Martin Luther King Jr. never received the celluloid treatment prior to Selma. Sure he had been mentioned in other historical pieces, but short of documentary footage, King was never given center stage. Quite shocking given the man's legacy and the lingering effect of his efforts still felt today. Several years of production and a director change later, Selma arrives as the film worthy of the man.

Review: The Salvation

Westerns have never recovered from the oversaturation that killed off viewer interest decades ago, but every now and then a gem pops up. Recent successes like The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, 2007’s 3:10 to Yuma and the Coen brothers adaptation of True Grit all did well because they tweaked the genre slightly, but director Kristian Levring goes with an old school approach. A faithful recreation of those revenge Westerns made so popular in the 1970s, The Salvation envelopes many elements of previous Clint Eastwood classics and wraps it into a tidy package.

The Salvation starts in on the central dilemma, joining Jon (Hannibal‘s Mad Mikkelsen) at the train station where he awaits the arrival of his wife and son. Jon and his brother, Peter (Mikael Persbrandt), have lived in the United States long enough to build a hospitable life for their family back in Denmark. This homecoming should be a sweet moment to establish the family important to Jon, but fate plays out…