Win Win [Blu-ray] (Sous-titres français)
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Writer-director Tom McCarthy excels at tales about men who feel isolated from their surroundings. In Win Win, it's Kyle (Alex Shaffer, recalling the young Sean Penn), a teenager who enters the life of New Jersey attorney Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti). Flaherty's journey begins when he represents Kyle's grandfather, Leo (Burt Young), who suffers from dementia. When Flaherty finds out about the substantial fee, he signs up as Leo's guardian, because he's been having trouble paying his bills. He and his wife, Jackie (Amy Ryan), meet Kyle when the kid shows up on his grandfather's doorstep. Kyle's mother (Melanie Lynskey) is in rehab and her boyfriend is abusive, so Kyle wants to live with Leo. Because Mike placed him in a retirement home--against the man's wishes--he agrees to host Kyle for a few weeks, during which Mike learns about his wrestling skills and invites him to join the high-school team he coaches with Stephen (Jeffrey Tambor). His best friend, Terry (Bobby Cannavale), offers to assist the duo to get his mind off his ex (the one plot line that doesn't work). When Kyle's mother shows up to collect her son and cash in on her father's situation, Mike risks losing everything he has gained. Win Win doesn't surprise as much as The Station Agent, which featured Cannavale, or cut as deep as The Visitor, but Giamatti and Ryan make for a believable suburban couple, doing their best to make ends meet in the face of an unsympathetic economy. --Kathleen C. Fennessy
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Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a small-town New Jersey lawyer and high-school wrestling coach with a loving wife (Amy Ryan), two adorable small daughters, and a rapidly failing law practice. Desperate to make ends meet, he finagles his way into becoming the court-appointed guardian of one of his clients--Leo Poplar (Burt Young), an old man in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's--and pockets the $1,500-per-month guardian fee. However, Mike didn't count on the sudden appearance of Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer), the teenage son of Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) Leo's long-estranged junkie daughter. A sullen, bleach-blond kid, Kyle is a troublesome guest in the Flaherty household until the day Mike brings Kyle along to wrestling practice. Kyle turns out to be a wrestling whiz, and Mike suddenly has dreams of taking his team to the state championship. But soon Cindy shows up, sending Kyle into violent rebellion and threatening Mike's sweet deal with the court.
Never quite taking the audience where it expects to go, "Win Win" is a quirky and beguiling film about the growing bond between Mike and Kyle, how that bond is threatened, and what Mike is willing to do to preserve it. The cast could not be bettered. Giamatti, Ryan, Young and Lynskey are all superb, as are Jeffrey Tambor as Mike's fussbudget assistant coach and Bobby Cannavale as Mike's newly divorced buddy. Alex Shaffer, a high-school wrestling champion who was cast for his wrestling prowess, gives a touching and natural performance as Kyle; I hope to see him in more movies. If you're expecting a "Rocky"-style triumph at the end, think again; the biggest victory, McCarthy shows us, is simply being the best person you can be.
Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a sown on his luck lawyer in poor economic times who deals with elderly people as clients. His loyal wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) keeps their small house in Providence, New Jersey (McCarthy's home town, by the way) in order, managing their two daughters, the funky Abby (Clare Foley) and Stella (Penelope Kindred), in tow. One of Mike's clients Leo Poplar (Burt Young) is entering early senility and the court wants him placed in a home. Discovering that Leo pays good money for a guardian Mike accepts guardianship but moves Leo into a rest home, keeping his house locked up. Mike discovers a young 16 year old kid on Leo's doorstep and learns that the lad is Kyle (Alex Schaffer), Leo's grandson form Ohio who has run away from home because his mother (Melanie Lynskey) is in rehab and Kyle has escaped the abuse of her boyfriend. Kyle is taken in to the Flaherty family (tough Jackie melts and insists they support him). What Mike discovers is that Kyle is a Wrestling Champion and Mike happens to coach the high school wrestling team with his law partner Stephen Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor) and Mike's buddy Terry Delfino (Bobby Cannavale). Kyle's presence eventually leads the losing team to a winning position: Kyle is sensitive to the nerdy loser Stemler (David Thompson) and boosts the entire team's spirit. Problems arise: Cindy comes to town to claim Leo (and get his money) and hires lawyer Eleanor (Margo Martindale) to meet her aims. Mike's finagling of Leo's money backfires, Kyle loses faith in his new family, Leo only wants to go to his home, and all things seem to fall apart until unexpected changes occur in each of the characters.
Some viewers will see this as yet another 'Blind Side' type movie - and that is a Positive! Too few films deal with the sanctity of the family and the manner in which true family relationships can improve society at large. Tom McCarthy has managed to create a tender, humorous, realistic, and deeply touching film. Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan once again prove they are among our finest actors, but it the surprise debut of Alex Schaffer, a 17 year old lad who has been a wrestler but has no prior acting credits, that makes this film glow. The cameos by Burt Young, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale, Melanie Lynskey, and Margo Martindale along with all the other minor characters are superb. This is a film to restore faith in human kindness - a film that would benefit time together with youngsters and adults to observe how the world can tick. Grady Harp, August 11
Would I watch again? - I think I would.
*Also try - Little Miss Sunshine & The Winning Season
These observations are my effort to try and pay this movie a very high compliment; it is so well done that it is easy to develop feelings of sympathy and understanding for every character played by the carefully selected cast.
Paul Giamatti effectively plays the part of Mike Flaherty, an attorney who is struggling to make ends meet and support his family. His wife, Jackie Flaherty, played by Amy Ryan, is equally effective as his loving and understanding wife.
Mike, feeling financial pressure, makes a questionable decision which begins to backfire when circumstances, in the person of Kyle, a teen age boy played by Alex Shaffer, create a series of events which dramatically impact their lives and potentially change everything.
The boy needs a second chance and Mike needs the boy's help so an informal deal is struck. A new set of problems develop when the boy's mother shows up with her own agenda. The climax comes when Mike needs a second chance from Kyle, the question being will Kyle give Mike a second chance. The resolution of all of these situations makes for a fascinating movie which draws the viewer into the complexities of contemporary American family life.
There is a minimal amount of mild profanity, especially at the start of the movie, but the overall impression is of an interesting story of family life in today's economic and social environment. The story, direction, acting and scenery are all beautifully done and create a compelling movie.
It is a standout, I recommend it highly.