Ladies and gentlemen, ignore the indie feel of the trailer. Thanks to Juno, high school sports are quirky now. Nonetheless, let me introduce to you the first great movie of 2011.
Win Win has the same bare bones story as director Tom McCarthy’s earlier film The Visitor, when one person finds another on his doorstep. But this film’s more organic. McCarthy shows us the colourful characters within lawyer Mike Flaherty’s (Paul Giamatti) Garden State life. His daughter’s first word to the camera is ‘shit,’ his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) is an upstanding citizen with surprises. He also coaches an incompetent high school wrestling team with his wacky colleagues (Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale). This film’s visitor Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer) becomes the star of Mike’s wrestling team. The film can extract humour from banality especially with Kyle’s deadpan delivery. He says ‘Night, Jackie’ bringing laughs, and I wonder why other movies have to try so hard to be funny. The film’s first act is interesting enough on its own. I also feel as if with or without Kyle, this fictional Jersey’s continuum – its characters constantly in a quest for self-improvement, its middle class standing constantly threatened – would feel the same.
Thankfully, this movie also doesn’t have The Visitor‘s self-righteousness. Both Mike and Kyle’s mom Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) are neither portrayed as good nor evil, as both want financial rewards for being the guardian of Mike’s client who is also Cindy’s father. Lynskey is a contender in an insanely strong cast, agonizing about her Cindy’s father disinheriting her while tiptoeing between evil, manipulative daughter and disgruntled child, convincing Kyle of Mike’s deceit, saying the word ‘court’ with a perfect welfare-class inflection. It’s lovely to see someone as consistently good as her.
Cannavale, filling in the shoes of a showy, comic relief role, as his character Terry Delfino is the last person to join Mike as a wrestling coach. He transforms from Will’s barky boyfriend in “Will and Grace” and speaks with clarity and great timing, making himself the MVP of this film. From trying to keep Mike warm by climbing on top of him, telling Mike’s daughter not to get married to egging Kyle on as the latter confronts the former. a safer would movie would shut him up even in dramatic moments, but he doesn’t. McCarthy not trying to manipulate the film’s mood and tone, Terry’s presence adding to the film’s glowing naturalism.
Had the film ended one scene earlier, it would have felt too much like a back sell. Thankfully, it shows the Flaherty’s lives back to normal but living with compromises that always come with win-win situations. 4.5/5