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on April 1, 2011
Thomas McCarthy's previous films, "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor," were about sad, dispirited people finding love, hope and human connection where they least expected it. "Win Win," McCarthy's latest film, is another funny, touching film in the same vein, and one that promises to bring McCarthy a larger audience.

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a small-town New Jersey lawyer and high-school wrestling coach with a loving wife (Amy Ryan), two adorable small daughters, and a rapidly failing law practice. Desperate to make ends meet, he finagles his way into becoming the court-appointed guardian of one of his clients--Leo Poplar (Burt Young), an old man in the beginning stages of Alzheimer's--and pockets the $1,500-per-month guardian fee. However, Mike didn't count on the sudden appearance of Kyle Timmons (Alex Shaffer), the teenage son of Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) Leo's long-estranged junkie daughter. A sullen, bleach-blond kid, Kyle is a troublesome guest in the Flaherty household until the day Mike brings Kyle along to wrestling practice. Kyle turns out to be a wrestling whiz, and Mike suddenly has dreams of taking his team to the state championship. But soon Cindy shows up, sending Kyle into violent rebellion and threatening Mike's sweet deal with the court.

Never quite taking the audience where it expects to go, "Win Win" is a quirky and beguiling film about the growing bond between Mike and Kyle, how that bond is threatened, and what Mike is willing to do to preserve it. The cast could not be bettered. Giamatti, Ryan, Young and Lynskey are all superb, as are Jeffrey Tambor as Mike's fussbudget assistant coach and Bobby Cannavale as Mike's newly divorced buddy. Alex Shaffer, a high-school wrestling champion who was cast for his wrestling prowess, gives a touching and natural performance as Kyle; I hope to see him in more movies. If you're expecting a "Rocky"-style triumph at the end, think again; the biggest victory, McCarthy shows us, is simply being the best person you can be.
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Tom McCarthy is a young gifted artist - actor, writer, director - who has gifted us in the past with such memorable small films as writer/director of 'The Visitor', 'The Station Agent', and as writer for 'Up'. He deals with simple people encountering complex problems and shows us how cooperative relationships make life OK. McCarthy both wrote (with Joe Tiboni) and directed WIN WIN and if there were two words that would best describe this film the title supplies them. It is real, touching without becoming saccharine, and populated by a cast of some very fine actors who deliver a very human story.

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a sown on his luck lawyer in poor economic times who deals with elderly people as clients. His loyal wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) keeps their small house in Providence, New Jersey (McCarthy's home town, by the way) in order, managing their two daughters, the funky Abby (Clare Foley) and Stella (Penelope Kindred), in tow. One of Mike's clients Leo Poplar (Burt Young) is entering early senility and the court wants him placed in a home. Discovering that Leo pays good money for a guardian Mike accepts guardianship but moves Leo into a rest home, keeping his house locked up. Mike discovers a young 16 year old kid on Leo's doorstep and learns that the lad is Kyle (Alex Schaffer), Leo's grandson form Ohio who has run away from home because his mother (Melanie Lynskey) is in rehab and Kyle has escaped the abuse of her boyfriend. Kyle is taken in to the Flaherty family (tough Jackie melts and insists they support him). What Mike discovers is that Kyle is a Wrestling Champion and Mike happens to coach the high school wrestling team with his law partner Stephen Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor) and Mike's buddy Terry Delfino (Bobby Cannavale). Kyle's presence eventually leads the losing team to a winning position: Kyle is sensitive to the nerdy loser Stemler (David Thompson) and boosts the entire team's spirit. Problems arise: Cindy comes to town to claim Leo (and get his money) and hires lawyer Eleanor (Margo Martindale) to meet her aims. Mike's finagling of Leo's money backfires, Kyle loses faith in his new family, Leo only wants to go to his home, and all things seem to fall apart until unexpected changes occur in each of the characters.

Some viewers will see this as yet another 'Blind Side' type movie - and that is a Positive! Too few films deal with the sanctity of the family and the manner in which true family relationships can improve society at large. Tom McCarthy has managed to create a tender, humorous, realistic, and deeply touching film. Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan once again prove they are among our finest actors, but it the surprise debut of Alex Schaffer, a 17 year old lad who has been a wrestler but has no prior acting credits, that makes this film glow. The cameos by Burt Young, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale, Melanie Lynskey, and Margo Martindale along with all the other minor characters are superb. This is a film to restore faith in human kindness - a film that would benefit time together with youngsters and adults to observe how the world can tick. Grady Harp, August 11
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on August 21, 2011
"The odds of this kid ending up on your doorstep...it's a sign." Mike Flaherty's (Giamatti) law practice is failing. Running out of money he decides to risk his practice by agreeing to become the guardian of a wealthy client. When the clients grandson shows up to stay with him Mike takes him in and is amazed at his wrestling skills. When his mom shows up the entire plan, and family, is thrown into turmoil. This movie is very, very good. The acting is excellent (with Giamatti that's kind of a given) and the writing is great. The movie follows Mike and the decisions he makes that effect more then just him or his family. Much like the movie "Gone Baby Gone" it deals with the scenario of if a kid is better living with a stranger then his own family. At the same time this movie is very funny, moving and thought provoking and is a great choice to rent for the night. The biggest problem that this movie has is that the family turmoil that is in this movie is overshadowed by "The Beaver" and the awesomeness of that movie. Overall, a very, very good movie with great acting and heart. This movie will not dissapoint.

Would I watch again? - I think I would.

*Also try - Little Miss Sunshine & The Winning Season
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on June 29, 2011
Paul Giamatti is probably the smartest actor in Hollywood. From "Sideways" to "Barney's Version", he chooses (mostly) very good roles that rely simply on smart acting and writing. "Win Win" is one of my favorite movies in a while, as it evokes the small town joy of "The Station Agent" with an original story that is accessible to all audiences. Having seen it twice in theaters, I look forward to owning it on Blu-Ray upon release. It's worth every penny. If the people giving awards at the end of the year forget this movie, they are to be shamed - Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and everyone else involved did something special here, and you really should watch it.
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on March 21, 2015
From the writer/director of the great films The Station Agent and The Visitor, this film belongs to Mr. Giamatti. As a schleppy and less than ethical small town lawyer and wrestling coach, this actor can make us rout for his character regardless. @kmptop10
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on January 18, 2015
My two boys started wrestling late at age 8 and 11 this year. They're growing to appreciate the sport each day. How it makes them feel about themselves both physically and emotionally, as well as the respectability of their opponents. They see other kids bustin their chops and sweating rivers and realize the kind of work it takes to just participate much less win. Who would want to work that hard if there wasn't something profoundly rewarding in just participating? There's no immediate gratification to this sport. No mediocracy. And the effort rests squarely on their shoulders. If you get a metal it's because you earned it. This video isnt' a documentary so my boys were more open minded about watching it. They will even tell you it's not about wrestling. But I can tell you that while there is more than one lesson to the movie with or without the wrestling angle, there DEFINITELY is an element to it that is very much about wrestling, and they watched it at least three times over break! A kid that appears to have little promise or drive in life, displays the ability to switch it on like a light in the face of being given a second chance. That unmotivated teen maintains who he is as individual all the while showing the wisdom there is something to gain in effort and applying himself. What better sport than wrestling to place that kind of independent experience squarely on the shoulders of the one participating?
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VINE VOICEon November 4, 2011
This is a touching movie about people who appear to be very similar to the family next door, at least in a figurative sense. They are the type of people you might expect to see walking down the sidewalk in many communities; they are average in appearance and bearing and sort of blend in with the crowd. This, amazingly, is one of the major strengths of this movie, there is a naturalness that leaves one feeling real life situations are being somehow observed and recorded.

These observations are my effort to try and pay this movie a very high compliment; it is so well done that it is easy to develop feelings of sympathy and understanding for every character played by the carefully selected cast.

Paul Giamatti effectively plays the part of Mike Flaherty, an attorney who is struggling to make ends meet and support his family. His wife, Jackie Flaherty, played by Amy Ryan, is equally effective as his loving and understanding wife.

Mike, feeling financial pressure, makes a questionable decision which begins to backfire when circumstances, in the person of Kyle, a teen age boy played by Alex Shaffer, create a series of events which dramatically impact their lives and potentially change everything.

The boy needs a second chance and Mike needs the boy's help so an informal deal is struck. A new set of problems develop when the boy's mother shows up with her own agenda. The climax comes when Mike needs a second chance from Kyle, the question being will Kyle give Mike a second chance. The resolution of all of these situations makes for a fascinating movie which draws the viewer into the complexities of contemporary American family life.

There is a minimal amount of mild profanity, especially at the start of the movie, but the overall impression is of an interesting story of family life in today's economic and social environment. The story, direction, acting and scenery are all beautifully done and create a compelling movie.

It is a standout, I recommend it highly.
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on January 14, 2012
I have enjoyed Tom McCarthy's endeavors up to this point, but I haven't been as riveted or charmed as much as with "Win Win". This is not just a film about human nature, as much as a hopeful suggestion that an individual can make the right choices. Certainly humans are frail and make bad decisions, but this delves a bit more into the decisions that lead to the bad decisions.

McCarthy's witty screenplay is a complete character study involving many different situations. A cast of very reliable Indie actors is on hand--Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Burt Young, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor--totally committed to the tale being told. Also, an earthy performance from Melanie Lynskey, whom I haven't seen since she played Kate Winslet's crony in "Heavenly Creatures".
Most impressive, to me at least, is a young non-professional actor, Alex Shaffer, as a neglected kid, good at heart, but lonely and confused, who's learned to be independent. Shaffer is a natural.

Other reviewers have complained that these are unlikeable characters, but I don't agree. Some bad decisions may have not gone well, but I saw innate goodness come as a result. Unlike some films that dwell on human misery, "Win Win" is about normal, everyday people, told with humor and pathos, as the human condition requires.

I will buy this film.
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on March 10, 2016
Beautiful movie with an incredible cast showcasing the trials and tribulations many go through in different stages of life. Showing how some relationships evolve, create and fall apart, and even how to put them back together. This movie has a high replay value (can watch it again and again) and you can identify with almost every character in the movie, knowing someone whos been in a similar position or gone through something similar and how they dealt with those situations. love it! only wish it came with a digital copy
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on January 28, 2014
Who could not love the Renaissance Man of today's relevant dramas, Paul Giamatti? Leading a relatively invisible life, he (Mike) feels the walls of defeat closing in on him when a novel way of getting out of his financial straits presents itself. Invariably, a shaky structure such as this one is the perfect setup for a spontaneous occurrence in the way of Alex Shaffer's (Kyle's) appearance in his and his family's lives. As the narrative proceeds, you will find yourself not only drawn in, but rooting vociferously for these two underdogs. Spot-on perfect appearances by Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor and Melanie Lynskey round out a perfectly balanced cast. Treat yourself to an evening of emotional roller-coastering which will give you a hearty WIN WIN. Janice Sovinee
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