Honestly, I’d watch Paul Giamatti in a German porn film; he’s an actor whose age, experience and hard work have placed him into amazingly complex roles that few can fill. Only in the last decade have we been truly exposed to the full potential of his abilities, though. With such amazing performances like Harvey Pekar (American Splendor), Miles Raymond (Sideways), Joe Gould (Cinderella Man), John Adams (John Adams) and now as Mike Flaherty in Thomas McCarthy’s Win Win, I definitely smell an Oscar acceptance speech in the next five years.
Win Win is a lo-fi dramatic comedy with an indie flair. Down and almost out ‘all-round-good-guy’ Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) is close to losing his law firm and even closer to losing another school wrestling competition at the school wherein he coaches a lacklustre team of uncoordinated teens. Mike’s latest client is played superbly by Burt Young (Rocky), an old man slipping further into dementia. With no relatives to take care of him, and the government’s pressure to send him to a nursing home, Mike offers to look after him.
Enter Burt’s estranged grandson Kyle, played by Alex Shaffer. He turns up in the quiet town, running from his drug-affected mother to live with his grandfather. Mike’s now stuck in the middle of a family feud of greed and selfishness, but has he also stumbled upon a star wrestling athlete in Kyle?
Star wrestler in real life Alex Shaffer, in his first on-screen role, really produces a charming performance as the troubled teen. Win Win presents an amazing cast that effortlessly supply overloads of character and humour to the narrative without making anything seem contrived, and they all compliment Giamatti superbly.
Win Win delivers a solid story told in a very simplistic manner; it may not be the most well-paced narrative, but it produces very thoughtful and emotional moments. There is just something very satisfying about this film, I can’t quite work it out though; there is a message everyone will respond to differently. It’s just an insanely well-crafted character and family piece.
Words: Matthew Cohen