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Win Win

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Scott Roberts
Win Win
on Apr 4, 2011 at 2:34:54 pm

A familiar story of nice family taking in troubled kid who’s good at something then ends up teaching the family more than they teach him gets… …a familiar treatment as usual.

I suppose I went in with really high expectations based on reviews and word of mouth, kind of hoping for something new with a plot that basically anyone can guess from the trailer. It ended up not really being anything special in the plot department. You can assume what’s going to happen next before it actually does, then it ends up being pretty close to what you imagined. But Win Win at least shines in other aspects that the typical Oscar bait that usually covers this kind of plot doesn’t.

It’s realistic. It doesn’t have corny dialogue and cliche emotional moments hammered in there. It was probably the most true-to-heart movie about taking in a troubled teen I’ve ever seen, and that’s why it’s worth seeing. It has its indie quirks and its funny moments, but it’s a feel good movie without those corny inspirational moments. Maybe the best (and most hilarious) moment comes when Paul Giamatti is yelling “Do whatever the **** it takes!” to one of his wrestlers during a match. So, it’s not really typical “‘You’re changing that boy’s life’, ‘No, he’s changing mine…” kind of crap. Anything that comes close to that kind of stuff at least doesn’t feel forced.

I know Win Win has gotten compared to The Blind Side, and rightfully so, but I think this is leagues above the mundane result that was The Blind Side. I’m not sure how well Win Win will hold up in the long run of cinema lore, but I assume it will have stronger legs than Sandra Bullock’s crown jewel.

Highlight of the movie though: Bobby Cannavale. His role as Giamatti’s best friend who becomes an assistant coach to distract himself from his ex-wife was hilarious. I laughed basically every time he was on the screen. This guy should get more work! And of course, Paul Giamatti was awesome as always. Rest of the cast: they did what they had to do. Amy Ryan was decent, though I have trouble lately shaking her from her role on The Office. And the kid who plays Kyle seems like maybe he’s not the greatest actor in the world, but he fit for this character.

Overall, Win Win is definitely worth checking out. It’s not as good as maybe I would have hoped, but I was pretty drawn in the whole time, never bored. And I know it’s kind of a lame thing to criticize a film based on expectations, because you should mainly watch it just for what it is. But even from that standpoint, as I was watching it I was let down a little by how things turned out in the end. But then again, it was the realistic ending, I suppose. Win Win isn’t amazing, but it’s better than most crap that gets wide release.

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Tim Wilson
Re: Win Win
on Apr 4, 2011 at 4:01:58 pm

I haven't seen this yet, but it's on my list. I'm a huge fan of writer/director Tom McCarthy's previous 2 movies, The Station Agent and The Visitor.

The former had a fantastic part for Bobby Canavale. It's basically a 3-person movie, with the other "supporting" role by the ever-wonderful Patricia Clarkson being, well, wonderful. It stars Peter Dinklange, for whom McCarthy wrote the movie. Nominated for the Grand Jury prize at Sundance 2003, it won the audience and screenwriting awards. It also won Best First Screenplay and the John Cassavetes Award (creative team for a budget under $500,000) at the Independent Spirit Awards, and a whole bunch of others from around the world.

The trailer, alas, makes it seem quirky and cute, but I'd never have considered either of those words. I've still never seen anything quite like it - humane, touching without being mushy, in fact, quite sharply visualized, and written, directed and performed to (as far as I can tell) perfection. A must for any fan of movies, frankly. And certainly for anyone wanting to see Canavale knock another one out of the park.

The Visitor is another movie he wrote specifically for the star, in this case, Richard Jenkins. The role of his I was most familiar with was the deceased father in Six Feet Under. His performance in an episode called The Room is amazing, one of the best hours of television I've ever seen. Like Dinklange, Jenkins was flabbergasted when McCarthy showed up and said, Hey, I wrote this movie for you. Jenkins was nominated for Best Actor for his performance, and shoulda won. (Jenkins was nominated for and won a whole bunch of other stuff, too.)

Don't be lulled by the trailer into thinking that this is a movie "about" immigration, anti-Muslim whatever. This is a movie about humans trying to connect. (And in this case, basically a 4-person picture, all of whom are amazing.)

I can't recommend these movies highly enough. Desert-island class pictures.

They have an elegaic dimension, built around a man trying to find his way back to life after loss. McCarthy won another Best Director Award at the Independent Spirits, and, like The Station Agent, was nominated for a WGA Award.

McCarthy was also nominated (Oscar and others) as one of three writers for Up -- hmmm, an elegaic story about a man finding his way back to life after loss.

He's also an actor, including 6 seasons of Law & Order, a season each of The Wire and Boston Public, and movies both great (Good Night & Good Luck, SAG-nominated for Best Cast) and, uhm, well, two Fockers movies.

Overall, one of the careers I find most interesting anywhere in Hollywood. Here's his IMDb.

So even if I wasn't a huge Paul Giamatti fan (and I am - don't leave Safe Men off your list, and look for him soon as Col. Tom Parker in Bubba Nosferatu: Curse of the She-Vampires.), Win-Win would be somewhere on the agenda anyway....

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Scott Roberts
Re: Win Win
on Apr 4, 2011 at 6:46:01 pm

I've seen The Visitor, I liked it a lot. Jenkins was indeed great in it. I haven't even really heard of The Station Agent, but it's $4 used on Amazon Marketplace. Purchased!

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