Win Win (2011)

28 Feb

I don’t much care for movies about sports or movies about law.  I’m not a sports fiend, so sports movies bore me.  I dislike movies about law, because there are few things more painful than watching non-lawyers discuss law.

Win Win is a sports film and a law film, but also not really either of those at the same time.  Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a financially struggling elder law attorney who volunteers to be a guardian for Leo, a gentle old man beginning to succumb to dementia.  Flaherty is motivated by the hefty promised stipend, and although Flaherty promised the judge that he’d keep Leo in his home, he places Leo into a care facility.

Unexpectedly, Leo’s grandson Kyle shows up to live with him.  Flaherty, not knowing what to do, takes Kyle in while Flaherty and his wife (played by the brilliant Amy Ryan) try to reach Kyle’s drug addicted mom.  As Kyle stays with the family, Flaherty, a high school wrestling coach, discovers that Kyle happens to be a gifted wrestler.

Flaherty’s seemingly flawless plan goes awry when Kyle’s mom finishes her rehab and shows up on the Flaherty’s doorstep.  She too is motivated by money, and demands to be named Leo’s guardian.  Flaherty is left to sort out his own troubles, what is right and what is wrong, and the affection he has developed for Leo and Kyle.

Right and wrong are clear in this film, but you don’t get pounded over the head with morals.  The characters are well-rounded and relateable.  I don’t dislike Paul Giammati, but I’m not a huge fan either.  Even so, I think he puts on a very nice performance here.  In what must be a complete first in the history of cinema, the main teenage character seems to be a good, sensible kid.  He’s got some problems, but he’s genuinely good-hearted without being saccharine.

Win Win crosses genres and audiences.  This is one of the few films that I could actually see my mother and I both liking (we seem to have polar opposite opinions on film).  The acting is top notch (Jeffrey Tambor has a small part, hurrah!) and there is no sex or violence, so you could watch this movie on an airplane without embarrassment.

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