Win Win
Don’t mess with Giamatti. He will pummel you!

Theatrical Release Date: 04/01/2011
Director: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Alex Shaffer, Melanie Lynskey, Burt Young, Margo Martindale, David W. Thompson
Rated: Rated R for language.
Runtime: 1 hour, 46 minutes


Look! Two dogs doing it!

The true test of a director’s prowess is in consistently delivering quality films; nearly everyone can get one good movie made (except Uwe Boll but that’s a whole different story). Well, after “The Station Agent”, “The Vistor“, and now “Win Win”, writer/director Thomas McCarthy has shown himself to be one of the best in the business at the moment.

His latest film centers on a struggling lawyer/volunteer high school wrestling coach (Paul Giamatti). In order to make ends meet and support his family, he ends up becoming the guardian to a man beginning to suffer from dementia (Burt Young). However, he really just wants the check he receives for being appointed to the position and sticks Young in a very nice old folks home.

Complication arise, however, when his grandson (Alex Shaffer) comes into town. He’s run away from his mom (Melanie Lynskey), forcing Giamatti and his wife (Amy Ryan) to take him in. Of course, from Giamatti’s perspective, it doesn’t hurt that Shaffer is a wrestling wunderkind and might help his team actually win a match.

Sorry to be so synopsisy (no, it’s not a word) but in trying to describe this film to a number of people, I found myself recounting the plot. This isn’t because there’s anything wrong but because there’s no easy tagline. The story deals with multiple family problems among multiple families. And it does so with sincerity, with grace, and with a truckload of humor.

I have come to expect a tremendous amount of character development and heart in McCarthy’s films but this is easily the funniest of his career and had me and a roomful of critics laughing out loud (which can be very hard to do). The comedic chops come mostly from Bobby Canavale (who worked with McCarthy before in “The Station Agent”) and Jeffrey Tambor but the rest of the cast are up to the task as well.

What’s perhaps the most refreshing aspect of the film is how natural and realistic the teenagers are presented. Shaffer is brand new to the game, having been brought on for his New Jersey state champion wrestling skills, but he absolutely nails his part – both comedically and dramatically. Helping him is David W. Thompson as his new best friend; he’s the awkward dorky kid but also the kind of friend we all need – loyal and true.

Hopefully, this won’t get forgotten in the mix by the end of the year and it’d be nice of the distributors thought about giving McCarthy a more helpful release date on his next go around. While awards don’t make a movie better, they help audiences find that film, which is what’s important. And while I felt a more personal connection to the characters in his last two films, “Win Win” is easily, EASILY, the best movie of 2011 released to this point, I can’t recommend it highly enough and it receives a 4 out of 5.

4 out of 5