Skeptical of the title and with some trepidation I ventured to the first showing of the latest Paul Giamatti flick; my anxieties instantly dissipated, and for 106 minutes I smiled, chuckled and relished this beautifully bland, lightly realistic story about people I would love to have as neighbors.
Paul Giamatti, whose talents, ceaselessly overwhelm, is Mike Flaherty a lawyer whose client base has diminished to the point that simple office repairs are neglected, he is appointed the caregiver of Leo (a fine and forthright depiction by Burt Young), whose mind is loosing the war against the onslaught, quintessential victor, senility; but it his role as coach of a high school wrestling team that defines and enriches the character of “Mike”; passion for the sport punches and pounds the viewer, even us neophytes, clueless of the intricacies, nuances of the sport; exception being the full and half nelson! The coaching scenes and matches plunder the senses with fierce authenticity.
Amy Ryan (“The Wire”, “Before the Devil Knows Your Dead”, “Gone Baby Gone”) is phenomenal as Jackie Flaherty, the feisty, supportive wife and mother of two. It is hard to fathom anyone encompassing the naturalness, harmony, genuineness of Ms. Ryan in this incredible, gargantuan role of a lifetime. She is imminently natural, securely real and blessed with a fiery independent intellect which suffers no obfuscation; safety reigns with “Jack” in your corner.
Alex Shaffer (a high school wrestler in real life) as “Kyle” the troubled, tattooed, talented wrestler, is as interesting as he is iconoclastic; a teenager not on drugs, but a smoker; his emotions simmer beneath a veneer of calm and steely silence; he is not afflicted with the “like” disease; he thinks and speaks without aggrandizement or angst. He is kind and more than anything he is caring, a boy you can trust.
Bobby Cannavale has made a remarkable transition from television (“Third Watch”, “Will and Grace”) to the wide screen; he is gorgeously hilarious as the soon to be divorced “Terry” and new assistant coach. With perfect pitch and timing the movie undulates with his characterization; he is infectious, resplendent, irresistible in his boyishness, impossible not to love.
“Win Win” without, sex, violence, or predictable outcomes shines with its message; ordinary, likeable people living their lives, making mistakes, listening to each other, accepting accountability for their actions, decisions; the outcome: everyone wins, especially the audience.