Fox Searchlight Pictures
Now Showing at:
Review by: Larry Thomas
Some filmmakers like to specialize in action films, where the explosions and car chases are bigger and better. Others prefer what passes for contemporary comedy, highlighting sophomoric humor and body function gags. And occasionally a writer-director likes to work with low budgets and characters that are everyday people.
Tom McCarthy is such a filmmaker. In some ways, he’s reminiscent of the great John Cassavetes. McCarthy is also an actor who takes roles in TV series and films such as Little Fockers and 2012, so that he has the freedom to write and direct films that are personal to him. His first two outings as a filmmaker received much acclaim. The Station Agent in 2003 was a big hit on the art house circuit, and 2007’s The Visit snagged an Oscar nomination for Richard Jenkins as Best Actor.
His latest venture is Win Win, in which a fairly unsuccessful lawyer who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach decides to bend the rules to make some much needed money to stay afloat. One of his clients is an old man who is in need of supervised care. The guy’s only living relative is an estranged daughter who cannot be found. Rather than make him a ward of the state, the lawyer agrees to be responsible for his client in exchange for the monthly payment that would have gone to the care facility.
Unfortunately, it’s one of those films where I knew almost from the first frame that it was going to leave me cold. And I was right. Despite a really talented cast, Win Win seems to go nowhere fast. The performances are so low-key as to be akin to sleepwalking through the script. Paul Giamatti is the lawyer-coach who seems befuddled by life in general. His wife, played by Amy Ryan who was so good in Ben Affleck’s Gone Baby Gone, seems almost emotionless. Jeffrey Tambor is Giamatti’s legal partner and coaching assistant, and stalks through the film with a singular visage, somewhat resembling a bird of prey that’s used too much botox. Burt Young is the client, and has always struck me as someone who should be nominated for “Most Annoying Character Actor,” whether he’s in Rocky, or Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America.
As always, the best of plans never work out, especially when the old man’s grandson, who’s had experience wrestling in high school, then eventually his opportunistic daughter, show up on the scene. And by this time, I was really ready for this film to end.
However, in all fairness to Win Win, I will say that you may like it. For me, it resembled a laconic, made-for-cable movie that was lacking in energy and interesting characters. And most reviews have been on the positive side, so maybe it’s just me. But whatever the reason, this was a very disappointing movie.
The R-rated Win Win is now showing exclusively at the new Kenwood Cinema.