Wrestling with his Conscience
Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is one of those people who tries but for some reason never wins; when he goes jogging he looks pedestrian against younger, fitter runners and whilst running his own law business he is not making the money he needs to support his family. On the subject of which his wife loves him but seems unaware of the stresses he is under or how he is feeling. His only real escape is when he coaches teenagers on how to wrestle. In despair Mike decides to become guardian to an elderly but wealthy client, Leo Poplar (Burt Young), so that he can put him in a care home and then collect his monthly payments from the state for himself. But things take an unexpected turn when the old man's grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up who turns out to be a gifted wrestler and could be Mike's chance to better himself.
As I sat down to watch "Win Win" I suddenly heard a bit of music and for a while I tried to place this flowingly jaunty piece of guitar playing and whilst I couldn't place it I did discover that "Win Win" was directed by Thomas McCarthy who also directed "The Station Agent" a movie which really impressed me. It lifted my hopes as I hoped that maybe this would be another surprise bundle which grabbed my attention and amused me.
Now "Win Win" does have that same quiet, amusing character style as we observe the life of Mike and the despair he finds himself in. But this is quieter, slower and in truth the sort of movie that a week later you will suddenly start to think about, probably watch again and only then start to pick up on its subtleties. For example there is that opening scene of Mike jogging through the woods, slow methodical but moving along and then two joggers come flying past him and Mike instead of just carrying on stops as once again he is reminded that he is not good enough and in life he is always getting beaten. Basically this is a movie that the more you think about the more you realise it has a lot more going on.
What "Win Win" has going for it when it comes to immediate entertainment is a great cast with Paul Giamatti perfectly cast as the ordinary, put upon Mike whilst Jeffrey Tambor puts in an entertaining performance especially when it comes to his character assisting Mike in wrestling training. All of the performances are enjoyable in a low key manner even those whose purpose is to deliver the big laughs.
What this all boils down to is that "Win Win" is entertaining but it is one of those low key movies which only start to work when after the movie has finished you start to think about it and suddenly it becomes clear and you realise that all the low key stuff is actually funnier than you first thought.