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Thursday, July 14, 2011

Win Win

Er... sorry about the delay but better late than never, right? Nope, I'm sadly not talking about the final Harry Potter film, which I still need to see and am unashamedly psyched for but here's the last review from last week's lineup. And it's the best of the lot too...

Win Win is the latest film from indie director Thomas McCarthy and if you're aware of his previous films (The Visitor, The Station Agent) then you should know what to expect here. If not, Win Win is as good a place to start as any.

The basic setup of the film is that Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a struggling lawyer who sees an opportunity to make some extra money by becoming the guardian of a wealthy old man but, when the teenage son of the old man's estranged daughter turns up looking for his grandfather, Mike finds himself with a whole lot more on his plate than he could possibly have imagined. While trying to deal with this fractured family and his own financial problems, he becomes more and more involved in the life of this teenager who turns out to be a brilliant wrestler - someone that he could really use on the school wrestling team that he coaches on the side.

Now, if this plot seems overly convoluted and based on a couple too many contrivances for its own good, it's just because it is. And yet, it's only when you specifically go out of your way to summarize the plot that this becomes apparent. McCarthy is the master of small moments and by focusing so intently on the little things at the heart of the film (the characters and the humour and poignancy found in their many different interactions), the plot itself just falls into place. This is unassuming filmmaking par excellence.   

Everything, from the wonderful acting by Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young and young newcomer Alex Shaffer to McCarthy's script and direction, right down to the music and cinematography, is understated and quietly assured that the film remains a genuinely delightful viewing experience throughout. Win Win may be slight - it may even be predictable, silly and unblinking in its unabashed feel-good sentimentality - but I dare you to resist its easygoing charm, its big heart and its subtly pitch-perfect storytelling.


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