Comedy-Drama Shows Class
Here’s a ‘small’ film with a big heart
Writer-director Tom McCarthy has carved out an impressive niche for himself, first with the quirky Station Agent and several years later with The Visitor, which got Richard Jenkins an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of an emotionally shut-down professor dragged back into the messy business of living when he discovers a squatter in his little-used second apartment. McCarthy’s latest, Win Win, is a slighter film, but there’s lots of truth in this amiable comedy-drama about some well-meaning people who get into a scrape that proves to have surprising consequences.
Paul Giamatti stars as Mike, a lawyer with so few clients that he can’t even afford to replace the boiler that groans like a lost soul in the basement of the building where he works. He’s married to down-to-earth Jackie (Amy Ryan, of HBO’s The Wire), with whom he has two young children. Mike used to wrestle when he was in high school and is an assistant coach there now — partly because he needs the stipend, partly because he’s a good guy. The plot starts to turn over when, with his debts piling up, Mike pulls a bit of a fast one with an older client named Leo (Burt Young) who is in the early stages of dementia. Out of the blue, Leo’s teenage grandson shows up from out of town and because he has nowhere to stay, Mike and Jackie take him in. The kid has amazing wrestling skills — something Mike’s team is woefully short of — and then, with things finally going Mike’s way, the kid’s junkie mom is released from rehab and shows up in town . . . with designs on both her son and on Leo’s money. So, will Mike have the guts to expose his own shady deal in order to protect his client?
Win gets off to a slow start but proves to be a winner all the way. The characters are all refreshingly ordinary and believable in their mix of flaws, foibles, and underlying sense of decency. The performances are spot on, particularly Bobby Cannavale’s slyly hilarious turn as Terry, Mike’s long-time buddy who is in a neurotic, emotionally regressive slump since his wife kicked him out of the house and took up with the guy who had been doing their home renovations. Highly recommended!