Win Win has Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan playing Mike and Jackie Flaherty. They’re an average New Jersey couple with all the usuals: cute kids, a mortgage and a loving home.
Mike is an attorney. Business isn’t good. Mike is desperate but doesn’t want to tell Jackie. It might worry her.
One of Mike’s clients is an old man with dementia. The court is unable to locate his daughter or other family so Mike swings a deal to be the man’s guardian. The guy is loaded. Guardianship means income of $1,500 smackers a month from the estate and staves off the financial crisis.
Mike is supposed to care for the man in his home but moves him into a care facility.
Then, the man’s grandson, Kyle, shows up and things get complicated. More lies must be told. Kyle has a druggie mom and with nowhere to go, Mike and Jackie let him stay with them.
Mike also coaches a losing high school wrestling team. The kid just happens to be a champion wrestler and the salvation of his program. Good things come from the connection.
Lying in wait is the lie and the proverbial tangled web it weaves.
No one creates deeper, richer, more interesting characters than writer/director Tom McCarthy. What makes them deep, rich and interesting is an oxymoron. Like you and me, they are very ordinary. Ordinary, done by McCarthy is extraordinary.
McCarthy’s skill comes from an ability to hook you and make you care about his characters as if they are family. Win Win is about people just being people. Being human is a daily struggle shaped by ordinary and extraordinary events and our response to them. Sometimes we get it right. Sometimes we don’t.
Sandwiched into those trials is love, hope and humor. These themes are beautifully woven through McCarthy’s exceptional script.
Character chemistry is another McCarthy strong suit. His ability to cast just the right actor for a part is uncanny. If this doesn’t get Paul Giamatti a long-deserved Oscar and other acting awards, nothing will. His performance is pitch-perfect. Same with Ryan (TVs The Office.
She is the film’s anchor, a resonating voice of reason. Look for her to be in the award hunt, too.
You also believe that Giamatti and Ryan are the most solid couple on the planet. They have a comfort, familiarity and multiple dimensions found in real marriages. Chemistry that cannot be written into a script.
Newcomer Alex Schaffer does Kyle. It’s his first acting — ever. Schaffer was picked for the role because he is an excellent wrestler. For a first timer, he’s pretty good. He’s the typical teen and all lines are monosyllabic.
McCarthy’s films have a liberal dose of humor, so Bobby Cannavale and old-pro Jeffrey Tambor handle that duty perfectly. Also of note is Burt Young — Rocky Balboa’s buddy and brother-in-law from the Rocky films. He’s terrific.
Win Win is a must-see. To date it is the year’s best picture. As well as best acting accolades for Giamatti and Ryan, look for best writing and best directing awards, too.
By the way, if you haven’t seen them, you also should catch McCarthy’s 2003 flick The Station Agent and his excellent The Visitor from 2007.
And don’t miss the McCarthy and Shaffer interviews on my blog at www.tri-cityherald.com/arts/mrmovie.
Mr. Movie rating: 5 stars
Rated R for language and mature themes. It opens Friday, April 29 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.