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.