Win Win

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Rating: R

Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty
Amy Ryan as Jackie Flaherty
Jeffrey Tambor as Vigman
Bobby Cannavale as Terry Delfino
Melanie Lynskey as Cindy Timmons
David W. Thompson as Stemler
Margo Martindale as Shelley
Burt Young as Leo Poplar
Alex Shaffer as Kyle Timmons
Alan Aisenberg as Peter Vigman
Sharon Wilkins as Judge Mabelean

Directed by Thomas McCarthy

Special Features:
Deleted Scenes
Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni Discuss Win Win
David Thompson at Sundance 2011
Alex Shafer at Sundance 2011
In Conversation with Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti at Sundance 2011
“Think You Can Wait” Music Video by The National

Other Info:
Widescreen (1.85:1)
Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound
French and Spanish Language
French and Spanish Subtitles
Running Time: 106 Minutes

The Details:
The following is the official description of the film:

“In the game of life, you can’t lose ’em all.

Academy Award nominee Paul Giamatti stars as a lovable yet long-suffering lawyer and high-school wrestling coach who takes us on a brilliantly heartfelt journey through the game of life… where you can’t lose ’em all. When Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) comes across a teenage runaway who also happens to be a champion wrestler, Mike’s luck turns around in spectacular fashion. But his win-win situation soon becomes more complicated than he ever imagined when the boy’s family affairs come into play. Co-starring Oscar nominee Amy Ryan and directed by Oscar nominee Tom McCarthy, this touching and funny comedy will leave you cheering.”

“Win Win” is rated R for language.

The Movie:
Character actor turned filmmaker Tom McCarthy branches away from his first two movies with a third film that’s not about secluded loners—Giamatti’s character has a family and many friends–though it continues the theme of having people from different walks of life being brought together by circumstance he’s done so well. At first, it seems like the focus of the story will be on Mike and his various stress-causing issues—that’s an easy no-brainer role for Giamatti–but once Kyle shows up, it turns into a full-on ensemble that gives the entire cast their own moments.

This is best exemplified by the casting of Amy Ryan as Mike’s wife Jackie, a role that may have been marginalized in the hands of any other actress. At first, she’s nervous about having the troubled teen around but she soon warms up to him and has some nice scenes with newcomer Alex Shaffer. Ryan is proving herself to be an actress on par with a young Diane Keaton, able to transition between the equally humorous and dramatic nature of the story.

Even funnier is Bobby Cannavale as Mike’s best friend Terry, an overzealous man-child who literally steals every scene he’s in with his great delivery, making the most of the character and the gag of him wanting to play a part of Kyle’s success as a wrestler. Newcomer Alex Shaffer isn’t bad as Kyle, a role that requires a lot of a young actor, but he does feel like the weak link at times, especially against so many strong vets.

The film really finds its footing in the second act once Kyle joins Mike’s wrestling team and it turns into a crowd-pleasing sports movie, but when Leo’s estranged daughter and Kyle’s Mom (Melanie Lynskey) shows up in town looking to get her father’s money, things turn darker and the film takes a more dramatic turn. By then, you’re already involved with the characters’ lives and you remain on Mike’s side even once you realize that his earlier motivations were as selfish as Kyle’s mother.

“Win Win” shows further growth in McCarthy as a filmmaker with a story that involves more characters and subplots, yet it really feels like he’s able to pull things together for a far more satisfying third act than his previous films. Mixing humor and drama is always the hardest aspect of making a film that can entertain and movie audiences, and McCarthy has now proven three times he knows what he’s doing. One of the major studios would be wise to hire McCarthy to nurture one of their high concept comedies or give him the money to do whatever he wants to do next, because “Win Win” is the type of hat trick proving McCarthy’s worth as a filmmaker that really knows what audiences will want to watch.

“Win Win” is a highly entertaining film that exudes all the warmth of Tom McCarthy’s previous films but also has a sense of comic pace and timing that should allow it far greater appeal to a wider array of audiences.

The Extras:
You’ll find the standard bonus features on this DVD. There are a few deleted scenes, some interviews with the cast and crew, and a video showing Alex Shafer clowning around at the Sundance Film Festival. Another interview with Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni shows the writers discussing how the movie was inspired by their own high school wrestling experiences.