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Movie Review: Win-Win

Paul Giamatti has long flown under the radar, giving “average guy” performances that don’t really ignite the box office, yet receive critical acclaim. Win-Win is another one of those films, sadly, after being left to die at the box office with only 10M in grosses. But that’s 10M for a film that never received wide release, and did business based on the word of mouth of how good the film really is. And honestly, it really is that good. It’s funny when its unexpected, real and emotional like you wouldn’t expect, and it’s led by some really great performances by Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and breakthrough Alex Schaffer. Win Win wasn’t a movie that was really on my radar, but then it started popping up on critics lists, and I’m glad I got the chance to see the film.

Win Win follows the story of Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), a lawyer who comes into guardianship of Leo (Burt Young), and later his grandson Kyle (Alex Schaffer). Kyle has essentially run away from home, leaving behind his drug addict mother (Melanie Lynskey), and her abusive boyfriend. Kyle has a talent, and that’s wrestling. Mike happens to coach the wrestling team, and he works with Kyle on his talent so that Kyle can have a promising future, and Mike’s wrestling team can finally win once. Along the way, Kyle becomes a better teenager while being parented by proper people, and connects with his grandfather.In the end, it’s Mike who grows the most, realizing the mistakes he’s made, and later being presented with the opportunity to right them.

Paul Giamatti gives a great performance as Mike, keeping him grounded, thus allowing the audience to relate. Luckily, he’s got Amy Ryan to keep him strong, and she gives an equally grounded performance as his wife. Alex Schaffer, while he won’t get any nominations, is pretty good as Kyle too. It’ll take a few more films to see what kind of range he has, but he is definitely on the right path. Directed by Thomas McCarthy (The Visitor), Win Win is a strong little film that deserves not to get lost this awards season. Will it? Probably. But that’s a shame.

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