Starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey

Director: Thomas McCarthy

Writer(s): Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni

Cinematography: Oliver Bokelberg

Original Score: Lyle Workman

Running Time: 106 Mins.

Starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey

Director: Thomas McCarthy

Writer(s): Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni

Cinematography: Oliver Bokelberg

Original Score: Lyle Workman

Running Time: 106 Mins.

Thomas McCarthy is a director who thus far has stuck to a formula, it is a formula that works for his films as they are the kind of film that favours character over story though never at the expense of an involving one that comes from said characters. His first film, The Station Agent had Peter Dinklage as a man who was afforded a great deal of screen-time to give the audience a fully rounded man, all elements were explored be it for good or bad, then into this mans life came a selection of (often eccentric) friends, or soon to be friends. So why would we expect a change in tactic from such a tried and tested plot (it garnered Richard Jenkins an Oscar nod forThe Visitor), which means that this time we have perpetual hangdog and all round great actor Paul Giamatti, stepping up to play another put upon man who has good intentions but has a tendency to let “life” get the better of him.

This,  like The Visitor and The Station Agent before it, is not a film for everyone, that isn’t to say it is particularly taboo breaking but rather it plods very closely to that fine line of “indie comedy”, of which Juno and Little Miss Sunshine purportedly stand tall amongst. The key here is character and that characters quirks, of which bring about the films driving force (plight). Here Giamatti is Mike Flaherty, a failing lawyer who only works cases to help people out and, in his spare time, coaches a wrestling team with buddies Stephen and Terry (Cannavale and Tambor). By way of a fluke Mike comes into some money in attempting to aid a senile pensioner, and this is where it becomes complicated…Mike and his wife end up taking in a troubled teen (is there any other type) who is said man’s grandson.

So the wheels are set in motion for Mike to bond with teen Kyle who, it turns out, has something of a skill for wrestling…and whaddya know the men bond and rediscover themselves. Okay so it isnt all that twee and stymied, McCarthy knows his material too well, he nows how to coax a great turn from all of his cast. Some elements do shout “mainstream Hollywood comedy” more than the director may have like but to in an effort to provide sufficient laughs in balancing out the drama you need the eccentric support characters (Cannavale and Tambor). Thankfully both of them are great, and as is yet another skill of the director, having the kind of easy chemistry that Giamatti shared with Hayden Church in Sideways. Similarly the family dynamic is very well handled, Amy Ryan is a believable spouse for Mike and the scenes of the two of them together are fun and dramatic in equal weighting.

Sadly the great actors can’t mask a slightly jarring tone, the eccentric friend characters are something you can get over but the film veers wildly from some really hard hitting and touching issues to some rather silly jokes that seem below the talents of the cast and crew. As the finale looms the drama is naturally ramped up and allows the actor playing Ryan to shine (reminding me of a young Edward Furlong circa. American History X) but by this stage too many subplots have been thrown into the ring, as it were, with varying degrees of success. Had we just stuck with Mike and the a more simple narrative that allowed him to bond with family and friends without too much in the complication this could well have matched McCarthy’s previous efforts, as it stands we just have yet another Comedy Drama purporting to be “indie” with a heart of gold at its centre by way of the ever reliable Giamatti.

VERDICT

Win Win isn’t quite up to the directors usual standards as he strives for something a little more mainstream, both failing that crowd and distancing his usual followers. Never-the-less it has its moments and the great cast over-ride the overly complex dramatic thrust.

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