Win Win - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Win Win Reviews

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Super Reviewer
½ December 22, 2013
Quite a glorious little indie from the dependably insightful and naturalistic writer/director Tom McCarthy, who, like with "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor," creates another atypical leading man with mundane demons and satisfying redemptions.

Perennial loser-with-layers portrayer Paul Giamatti plays Mike, a hard-up estate lawyer who commits a bit of light fraud with a rich, demented client to pay his own crippling household debts. The old man's grandson, Kyle, shows up from the wrong side of the tracks in hopes of getting away from a druggie mother, and Mike takes him under his wing out of pity and guilt, then genuine caring, and the two strike up a bond over high school wrestling...that is until Kyle finds out about Mike's transgression.

Alex Shaffer plays the bleach blonde Kyle with reticence but manners, and Bobby Cannavale plays the gregarious overgrown Guido-type, Terry, with charming impishness. The wrestling plot is triumphant and fast-paced, and the growing affection in this unconventional family tugs at some heartstrings.

The legal subplot with Kyle's mom wanting guardianship of Leo for shady reasons is a bit convoluted and underdeveloped though; we're supposed to sympathize with Leo and Kyle who just want to be left alone in their own home, but apparently, Leo wasn't a great father and may have contributed to his daughter's drug problems. What then?
Super Reviewer
½ July 4, 2013
Paul Giamatti is a superb talent that always manages to shine in his roles. Win Win is yet another one of those films that should be seen due to a great cast and wonderful story. Films like this are better than most big budget affairs because they tend to use the simplest ideas to tell a great story. The result is a movie that has some standout actors that deliver on-screen in a fun, comedic and dramatic movie that is entertaining from start to finish. The direction is great and the film's pacing is perfect with a tone goes from dramatic to comedic. Like I previously stated, Giamatti is a great actor and he delivers the standout performance of the movie that make this movie worth seeing. If you're in the mood for a well crafted drama comedy, then give this one a shot, you'll be glad you did. The film boasts a strong script that at times could have been better, but overall, the plot and acting are well rounded it out to make this an enjoyable yarn that is quite surprising. I really didn't expect much from this one, but I came out surprised. Director Tom McCarthy has crafted something special here, a movie that is fun and charming from the first frame onwards. Win Win manages to overcome its flaws due to its cast and effective directing. This is yet another great movie from Giamatti and he proves once again that he is a talented actor that can command the screen and elevate the film's material. Win Win is a great movie that you shouldn't pass up on.
Jon J.
Super Reviewer
September 8, 2011
It's rare to see a film that does so much with so little. Win Win takes a typical lower-middle class family, one misunderstood teenager and a senile old man and manage to create a tale that is simultaneously heart-warming and almost scary. It highlights what humanity is willing to do to get ahead, and what they can do to repent for their mistakes no matter how grave. Basically, it's far from a win-win scenario.

That's the situation attorney and moon-lighting wrestling coach Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) finds himself when, in desperate need of cash, becomes the guardian of Leo Poplar (Young), who has started to lose his sense of reality. What he didn't foresee is that soon enough, Poplar's grandson, Kyle (Shaffer) pops up in town in need of a guardian too. At first his surly demeanor makes Mike's family's life even harder. However, when Kyle turns out to be a brilliant wrestler, everything starts improving and soon, they become a true family.

Win Win doesn't just keep it simple though. Giamatti's character is far from perfect. He's surly and desperate, most often just thinking about his own goals. And yet, you still like him. He's an everyday man trying to do what he can to get by. Giamatti once again shows his acting chops. Shaffer does a great job in portraying the brooding teen Kyle and doesn't feel like just another teen role.

The film's script and direction by Tom McCarthy are, however, what give the film the life that permeates its entirety. In particular, the conversations of the characters feel natural but often hilarious. This is a dramedy, after all, but be warned that the focus is on drama. The characters' struggles are believable and often multi-layered, and when it gets to the breaking point you feel as hopeless as Mike himself.

Win Win doesn't do much with its core narrative, and you almost feel like something a bit more could've been done to make it go on a bit longer. Regardless, Win Win is a funny, touching and clever dramedy that is among the finest films released this year.
Super Reviewer
August 25, 2012
Pleasantly surprised. Not a movie I would have ever picked up, but was given a copy, so gave it a go.
I really don't like sport themed movies (or sport especially), so usually end up bored and wishing I hadn't bothered. This is about wrestling, but it's secondary to the main story. Actually a really good movie, good story about a guy who is going broke so takes on guardianship of an elderly man and winds up saddled with the grandson and ex druggie daughter as well. Really good characters and believable acting.
Ending a little too convenient, but it's a minor gripe.
Super Reviewer
June 13, 2012
Paul Giamatti stars in this down to earth tale of an everyman pushed into doing something he knows he shouldn't, and then scrambling like heck to stay above water when the deal becomes believably complicated.

Believable is the operative word here - from the very first frame this film has a tone and feel that is so very "normal" and, yes, believable. Virtually every character does more than just inhabit the film; they are flesh and blood, with their own issues and foibles, but it is Giamatti who once again holds the center with his amazing ability to play characters who are "just like us".

As the film begins we see Giamatti jogging along an idyllic forested path. He's doing ok, right? But then a younger pair of joggers blow by him and he stops his jog - as if admitting defeat. A beautiful and symbolic way of introducing the character. This scene is followed by a view of a window with one of those stick on stain glass angels. As the camera pans in the angel falls to the ground, echoing the sentiment that all is not so rosy for Giamatti. There's a wonderful tag to the scene in which Giamatti's young daughter enters the picture, sees that the angel has fallen, goes to pick it off the floor and sees that the center piece of glass (yellow, which echoes the yellow hoody that Giamatti is wearing in the first scene), has fallen out. Her response to this is a simple, poignant and funny "oh shit".

From here we move on to find that Giamatti's law practice is failing and he doesn't know how to generate more income. An opportunity comes along that will allow him to stay afloat, but is in a kind of grey area legally, and is certainly crossing the line ethically. When Giamatti decides to go down that slippery slope he sets in motion a chain reaction of events (all of which are totally plausible) that make this human dramedy work like a well oiled machine.

Taken at face value, one might easily dismiss the film as some overly sentimental tripe, but McCarthy directs this almost to perfection so you never feel the well worn aspects or start to doubt the believability of what is being presented. Of course McCarthy has a stellar cast to help him along the way. From the wonderful portrayal of the good wife by Amy Ryan, to the somewhat goofy, yet acceptable with a wry inner smile performance of Bobby Cannavale as Giamatti's friend and confident, you feel that these people are real - that you know them, or someone very like them.

Add a couple of very nice cameo's by Jeffrey Tambor and Margo Martindale and you have a film that tells a story, yet is more telling about life and values. There is a subplot concerning high school wrestling, but that is a mere underpinning for exploring other things. Alex Shaffer is the focus and motivator of much of the action in and around the wrestling mat, and while he comes off somewhat wooden, it is exactly what a 16 year old with no parental structure would probably be like.

In the end, it is the humanity and gentle humor that set this film apart from so many lesser efforts - it somehow found its voice and style, and expertly maintains it thanks to McCarthy's sure handed direction.

In closing, I'd like to add another juicy bit of the film's humor: there's a young boy on the wrestling team who is a star wars junky. When he finally gets his chance to perform on the mat he is paired against a guy who wears a black protective device over his face - the kid immediately starts to tear off his jersey, complaining that he'll have no chance against Darth Vader.
Super Reviewer
February 24, 2011
A down on his luck small time attorney and part time wrestling coach name Mike Flaherty comes up with a scheme to keep his world afloat by becoming the guardian of an aging and senile client...a job which gives him a decent amount of money on the side. He does this at first just to save his ass temporarily, but then generally comes around and redeems himself by doing it for the right reasons. All of this is complicated when a teenage runaway shows up at his door, revealing himself to not only by the client's grandson (whom he's never met), but also a champion wrestler...another great thing Mike needs to make his life better.

Of course there's big reveals, and things take a turn for the dramatic, but it all ends well and the characters gain the important life lessons that they need to from a situation like this. SImply put, each year has at least one feel good indie (or at least one that stands out), and for 2011, WIn Win is that film.

There are some dramatic moments. and they really work, but what really makes this film a winner are the great characters, and the humor. There are multiple characters who really steal the show and ham it up, and that's not a bad thing at all in my eyes. Sure, Bobby Cannavale is a bit obnoxious here, but it is a good perforamnce. Giamatti of course delivers another finely observed role as Mike, Amy Ryan is nice as his wife, Jeffrey Tambor is pretty funny as the full time wrestling coach, and well, ya know waht? Everyone is good here. Alex Shaffer brings a lot of promise in his role as the wrestling runaway, and, in a smaller, but vital role, Melanie Lynskey really shines as Alex's deadbeat druggie mother. Heck, even the little kids in this movie are more than just tolerable. Awesome. Oh yeah, and Burt Young proves that the Rocky series is not the only place where he lets his sadly underappreciated talents shine.

Well, if I seem to like this so much, then why only 4 stars? Well, I do like how, even though he has good intentions with it, Mike's scheme isn't entirely the nicest or morally proper thing in the world. Now, he's not portrayed as a sleazy shyster type of lawyer; he's a regular guy in a bad way, but still. I liked that, but the rest of the film is really pretty unoriginal and just a variation on a theme. It's well played, sure, but still, it's not all that remarkable, or really all that memorable.Plus, with all the swearing at kids during wrestling matches, some of this is rather unrealistic, and wouldn't be happening (at least not so obviously) in reality without consequences.

I do really dig it though, and we need films like this to remind us not only of how great character actors in a caracter driven indie can be, but that without feel good movies, this world wold far less tolerable to deal with.
Super Reviewer
½ March 16, 2011
midnight in paris is the best comedy of 2011, but win win is probably the funniest. the film has laughs that are smart combined with a ton of heart, a compelling storyline, and wonderful performances from amy ryan and paul giamatti. my surprise film of the year.
Super Reviewer
March 16, 2011
The latest film by indie darling Tom McCarthy (The Visitor, Up) is, to borrow a word from the title (and Charlie Sheen), "winning"?. Win Win is at the same time wholly original and refreshingly familiar. This sweetly comic independent dramedy features fantastic acting from Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale (hilarious) and Melanie Lynskey. It could've gone the sappy Blind Side route (a film with similar themes) but thankfully it didn't.
Super Reviewer
September 9, 2011
Fantastic movie alert!!! After so many disappointing movies, once in a while we come across a gem like this one. This movie is very entertaining, witty, and wholeheartedly wonderful. Paul Giamatti just can't seem to make anything but "the best of the best" these days. I am assuming it will get an Oscar nod or two....
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2011
'Win Win' completely exceeded my already high expectations. There are so many aspects that make this film spectacular, first is the acting. Paul Giamatti headlines this film in a masterful, flawless, and emotionally touching performance. Amy Ryan was also quite solid as well as Alex Shaffer and Melanie Lynskey. Writer/director Tom McCarthy ONCE AGAIN continues his well-established work of creating a fantastic human drama that people can honestly relate to because the characters are obviously under appreciated and the complete opposite of abnormal, which is nice for a change. The story is refreshingly honest as well as quite creative, and it is interesting to see it surrounding a part time high school wrestling coach and lawyer, all very original throughout, avoiding the normal film cliches. 'Win Win' is definitely a win as well as one of the most terrific films of the year. A delightful gem like this hardly ever comes around.
Super Reviewer
½ October 12, 2011
A lovable, realistically portrayed low-key dramedy concerning a slightly over-the-hill floundering attorney (Paul Giamatti) who teaches wrestling at a local school on the side, and how he takes in one of his older client's (Burt Young - eyyy Paulie from "Rocky") grandson (Alex Shaffer) after his client agrees to pay him to look over him. I like movies like this, because the relationships that take place in a small town like the one here (located in New Jersey) often interest me, and you could not find a better actor to play an everyday man than the brilliant Giamatti (one of my favorite actors). There are some problems with the film, notably some dry stretches and some occasional failed instances at humor, but the uniformly terrific acting (a Jeffrey Tambor sighting! Always a good thing) and firm realization of middle-class America is what keeps this thing ticking strong. More importantly, it is unquestionably a film for our time, being that we are in an economic struggle, and taking in strangers like the one this family does in this film speaks volumes to our undying sympathy and generosity. Granted, this happens rarely, but this movie displayed it in vivid, passionate fashion, and for that it garners an absolute recommendation.
Super Reviewer
October 10, 2011
When Paul Giamatti is in the cast, you know it's a drama or comedy worth watching. However, the performances of the supporting cast especially Amy Ryan and Alex Shaffer as well as the light farce pivoted the heart-warming story of the small delights and common mishaps to the level of tenderness that doesn't land on the over-sentimental. McCarthy delivered another great humanistic drama that is worth the attention.
Super Reviewer
February 22, 2011
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey, Alex Shaffer, Margo Martindale, David W. Thompson

Director: Thomas McCarthy

Summary: When down-on-his-luck part-time high school wrestling coach Mike agrees to become legal guardian to an elderly man, his ward's troubled grandson turns out to be a star grappler, sparking dreams of a big win -- until the boy's mother retrieves him.

My Thoughts: "The indie film is a little quirky with a bit of comedy, but it's mostly a drama. I really enjoyed Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan in this movie. I thought they were well matched to play husband and wife. Alex Shaffer was a bit stiff in his performance and maybe that's how he's suppose to portray Kyle, but it was just too stiff for me. But great acting all around. The story itself is one I've seen before, but even with it being nothing new, it was still a good film and well done."
Super Reviewer
April 10, 2011
In the game of life, you can't lose 'em all.

Excellent Film! Like enduring friendships, "Win Win" grows and deepens as it unfolds. The characters become more dear, the laughs get louder and the plot thickens. The acting from Paul Giamatti was unreal and so was everyone else in this film. The story was original and unique which gave it a plus to it's great script. Highly recommended for everyone who wants to enjoy a good solid film.

Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.
Super Reviewer
October 4, 2011
I loved this movie. It was funny, sweet, and Paul Giamatti rocks.
Super Reviewer
September 21, 2011
Mike Flaherty: This kids got a chance to do something special, maybe even change his life.

"In the game of life, you can't lose them all."

Win Win is one gem of an Indie Dramedy. Paul Giamatti gives my favorite performance of the year. As his wife, Amy Ryan also gives a spectacular performance that I really didn't see coming. Alex Schaffer gives a very good teenager performance in his first role ever. There was nothing I didn't like about this movie. The more I think about this movie; the more I think it is my favorite movie of 2011 to this point; at least my favorite American movie of 2011. It is a slow moving, funny and touching film. It moves along slowly but surely and never makes a spectacle out of the characters situations. The movie is very much like Kyle. There's a lot going on with it, but it doesn't come right out and say what that it is. It's subtle and gentle and dare I say Perfect.

Tom McCarthy deserves some acclaim for this movie. He pulled a movie off that many would fail with. Many directors would go for too much emotion in spots and make it very melodramatic. McCarthy doesn't, instead he just lets everything play out as it would in life. His characters are real and the viewer never doubts that they are. Giamatti and Ryan are convincing as the parents of two who take in a teenager they don't know. Both give very real performances. Giamatti always has a knack for this. He doesn't seem like a star, but an average Joe. After watching in him a few movies though; there is no doubt he is a star. He is Paul Fucking Giamatti.

I'm in love with everything about this movie. The movie has a sense of humor without relying on its humor to fill in for plot. Its humor is all in the context with the problems of its characters and the skills of Kyle. Don't overlook this movie because it didn't get a wide release. This is a movie that must be seen.
Super Reviewer
September 20, 2011
A bit slow at first, "but good cast and script makes win win a win win". I can guarantee a professional critic has used those exact words in their review, sadly.
Super Reviewer
½ March 20, 2011
In the game of life, you can't lose 'em all.

Let down

I honestly expected much more from this movie; the reason for being that the cast is so good that even if the movie lacked an interesting story line that the actors would be able to pick it up. I am not suggesting that this is a bad movie, but I felt as though not a lot was put into it, not from the actors or the director.

The story is not something unique, it's like "The Blind Side", where a family involuntarily adopt a young boy who has a gift in an area of sport (in this case wrestling) and the story follows the family and the complications that come with them. It can be considered a comedy, but don't expect to laugh, but rather have a few quiet giggles and that's it.

By looking at the names in this movie, Giamatti, Cannavale, Ryan, Tambor, and Young, its almost instantly that you will create a great expectation for the movie based on these names. However, and most unluckily this great cast wasn't able to convince me that much. It felt as though there was something missing, some sort of connection between them and the characters given to them.

The directing to isn't very good. At moments you can see the movie striving to be laconic, and it's almost disturbing on how hard Tom McCarthy tries to create a sense of drama in a movie that really doesn't need it.

However, its not all bad; as a matter of fact if I had come to watch this movie without any expectations, I probably wouldn't be so deluded. But I still feel that there is a missing piece to this movie, something that I think Tom McCarthy probably felt too.

Jackie Flaherty: "This kids got a chance to do something special, maybe even change his life."
Super Reviewer
September 6, 2011
One of the best movies I have seen this year. I was floored by the simplicity of it and enjoyed all of the performances. Paul Giamatti proves again he is not only one of the best character actors around, but point blank one of the best actors out there period. Funny, dramatic, and everything that you want in a comedy-drama. And it's really fascinating to watch NORMAL people in these situations. Especially Amy Ryan who plays one of the most normal and rational wives of all time (her facial expressions alone warrant her an Academy Award nomination). One of the simplest, but effective films I have seen in a long time. Very good.
Super Reviewer
August 29, 2011
"Win Win" has a gentle magic about it. Tom McCarthy crafts a good film about nice people that is neither mushy nor stupid, believe it or not. It's funny, because I was just complaining the other day about how you can't find an inspirational, moral film that does not drag religion into the picture. Well, it looks like I stand corrected. "Win Win" is inspirational. "Win Win" has a complex, moral issue at it's center. "Win Win" is not about religion. It's just about people. McCarthy crafts a lovely portrait of American life in the truest sense. While we all love dark, cerebral dramas that lean on the cynical side, it's refreshing to see "Win Win" deliver complexity without alienating anyone. It's actually pretty remarkable.
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