Film Review: Win Win

Tom McCarthy’s Win Win is an enjoyable enough film that features great performances. However, it lacks the sparkle which would make it a truly great film.

Mike Flaherty is a New Jersey lawyer struggling to make ends meet. When the opportunity to earn some extra cash arises, Mike takes it, even though it goes against his client’s wishes. His decision quickly comes back to haunt him however, when his client’s teenage grandson shows up unannounced…

Win Win is a drama with some amusing moments of comedy. The film works well, generating an engaging picture. Win Win is a bit of a slow burner; it never really springs to life, preferring to potter along. This is not really a problem, as the ambiguity over direction maintains interest in the film.

Mc Carthy’s film is immediately comparable with 2009’s The Blind Side. The films share a very similar premise, with football being replaced with wrestling in the 2011 film. Nonetheless, the films differ in their execution. Whilst The Blind Side takes on the cheesy air of a made-for-television movie, Win Win boasts great writing which ensures proceedings do not become schmaltzy.

The characters in Win Win are multi-faceted and well developed. This is especially true of protagonist Mike. There is some succinct exposition early in the film which effectively conveys why Mike finds himself in a financial bind. His actions are both good and bad; these areas of grey are what make the character appear so natural. Likewise, other characters in the film also appear realistic. Mike’s friend Terry becomes involved with the wrestling, but also has personal issues to contend with. Kyle meanwhile is not the typical moody teenager that he first appears to be.

McCarthy’s film offers some great performances. As ever, Paul Giamatti is incredibly watchable as protagonist Mike. Giamatti is well cast for the role, and utterly believable as the struggling lawyer. Bobby Cannavale is also great as Terry, responsible for many of the film’s laughs. Amy Ryan and Jeffrey Tambor also put in good performances, while Alex Shaffer captures the blankness of Kyle.

Whilst the writing is good, Win Win is not a particularly memorable film. The feel-good narrative lacks any real ingenuity. There is nothing that stands out about the film which would elevate it above other dramas in the same vein. It is sufficiently entertaining for the duration, but is unlikely to be returned to again and again.

Film Review: The Blind Side

Sandra Bullock won an Oscar for her performance as Leigh Anne Tuohy in The Blind Side. After watching this film, the other nominees must have felt they had been robbed. Whilst there is nothing deficient in Bullock’s performance, there is nothing remarkable either.

The Blind Side is based on the real life story of the Tuohys, a white, middle class, republican family from Memphis who take in a poor black homeless teenager. With the help of Leigh Anne in particular, Michael Oher goes on to become a member of the family, and eventually wins a college football scholarship.

The main problem with The Blind Side is that it is so schmaltzy, it’s saccharine. A feel-good movie, there is nothing but positive portrayals of all the main characters. There does not seem to be any unease whatsoever by any of the family at the unusual situation, but perhaps in real life there wasn’t. More significantly, the film lacks the element of threat or danger that things might not turn out as planned; the happily ever after is guaranteed from the off.

Furthermore, there is little resistance to the Tuohy’s plans for Michael. Save for a few comments from a redneck, and some bigoted remarks from some of Leigh Anne’s friends, there is a distinct lack of struggle for the family. This absence of hardship is interspersed with what is intended to be witty observations about the situation, with Sean Tuohy commenting: “Who would’ve thought we’d have a black son before we met a democrat”.

The Blind Side is not a terrible film. However, it lacks the gravitas of more serious silver screen drama. Whilst the narrative is positive and uplifting, it is more at home with “true-life story” style of made-for-television films.