Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Win Win [2011]

Director: Thomas McCarthy
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer, Burt Young, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor
Genre: Drama/Comedy
Rating: General
Excerpt: "I placed it in my list of movies I really enjoy watching on a lazy Saturday afternoon..."

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a mild-mannered and good-natured lawyer who also works as a high school wrestling coach. Despite feeling good at what he does, he struggles to make ends meet and could not bring himself to let his wife in on how they're doing financially, and it doesn't help that the wrestling team he coaches are pretty inept. However, things begin to look up when he defends Leo Poplar (Burt Young), an old man in the early stages of dementia, and Mike is able to make a little extra money by exploiting the system. But the arrival of Leo's grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer) and the luggage he brings along with him threatens to derail it all.

What to Expect
1. Paul Giamatti doing what he does best
2. A lighthearted movie
3. A movie that's just dripping with charm
4. Lovable characters

What NOT to Expect
1. Anything groundbreaking
2. Lack of substance
3. Superficial Romantic-comedy problems
Very entertaining
If you've been following my reviews for quite some time, I bet you can take a guess of just how much I treasure Saturday, and it's not the kind of a day I'd spend watching movies that's just not worth my time. I like to think that it's because every person out there grew up loving that serene feel of a Saturday morning, but perhaps I'm one of the few who's holding on to that little cove of my memories a little too tightly.

So the point I'm trying to make here is that, if I call a movie "the kind I love watching on a lazy Saturday afternoon", bear in mind that it's kind of a big deal, at least to me. Usually it means that it's the kind of a movie that does not require you to sit up straight and you will not at any point find yourself gripping the armrest a little too tightly. If anything, it's the opposite. It means all you have to do is sit back, relax and enjoy the movie.

For starters, any movie with Paul Giamatti in it means it's a good chance that it's going to be quite a bargain. Well, at least the ones I've seen. I never took the time to see Lady in the Water [2006] so I'm not just going to jump on the bandwagon and say that Giamatti had in the past made some very questionable choices. Or anything to that effect. I've always thought of him as being in the same league as Tom Hanks, like a poor man's version of him.

I don't quite know how to explain it, but there's this everyman charm that he brings to a role that's just impossible to dislike. Combine that with the lighthearted feel of this movie, he fitted in perfectly.

Now, I know I sound like I'm being too generous, but please do not get the wrong idea. This movie was excellent for what it was, so don't go around expecting to see a modern day The Shawshank Redemption [1994] or anything just as iconic. Instead, just like director Thomas McCarthy's previous work that I've seen, The Station Agent [2003] starring Peter Dinklage (a.k.a Tyrion Lannister), Win Win too is about everyday people caught in problems ordinary people go through.

And the result is a movie that felt genuine and down-to-earth without feeling bland. If I have to take a guess, I'd say it's because the movie had the benefit of having well-written characters. I think that's how they got me hooked to the story. You see, while the story line was pretty simple as far as dramas go, it was easy for me to empathise and sympathise with the characters because they all felt like real people.

Allow me to illustrate what sort of a thing I believe is a bad idea for a drama; A protagonist who has no father, an overbearing mother, a wife who's a total bitch, a project worth millions of Ringgit to worry about, and on top of that, our protagonist is also suffering from brain cancer. Things like that are too much of an overkill for me, and it just takes me out of the movie-watching experience because who the fuck goes through all that?

I know it's not altogether impossible, but if you want to write a drama where you'd be able to relate to the characters, you need to have that delicate balance between rich characters and a tragedy that's not too over-the-top. And that's what I'm trying to sell to you here, Win Win was precisely that. So while it may seem simple and non-exciting, I took great pleasure in rediscovering how less can indeed be more.


asrap virtuoso said...

Loved this movie... its in my top 10 of 2011... Bobby Cannavale as the best friend/assistant coach was hilarious!!

Mamü Miguel Ellezda Vies said...

Amy Ryan is quite a milf too, don't you think? ;)

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