Saturday, April 16, 2011

"Win Win" (2011) - Movie Review

Charlie Sheen has completely ruined the meaning of winning but “Win Win” brings back the word to its rightful place and plants the feeling of winning in its audience. It has a thorough understand of it because its central character Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) has not tasted it for a while now. He has a successful family but a failing law business and a more failing wrestling team he coaches in the local high school. Thomas McCarthy goes mainstream and though it appears indie. You should see his last two films and you would know what I mean. May be because this has more reason to be cheery than the previous two films which had a poetic aura of slight happiness in deep sadness.

Mike is the Joe somebody with a cute family. A loving wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) who always knows when her husband has something bothering him though do not nag him to death about it. The point in which Mike is shown in the first shot as he runs through the trail to be overtaken by two young guys. He stops and just sighs. He needs desperate win in his life. Now he is not going through something different from us and that is exactly the reason it makes it all the more involved.

He has a colleague Stephen Vigman (Jeffrey Tambor) who also is his assistant coach for his losing wrestling team. Then there is his childhood buddy a wealthy recently bitter divorced Terry (Bobby Cannavale). Terry is played by Cannavale providing another flavour of charm and cuteness he did with McCarthy’s debut film “The Station Agent”. In any other film he could have been the jock and antagonizing character but here he is a good souled man trying to deviate himself from his personal fiasco in marriage.

“Win Win” could have been the cliched sports inspiring film. It had its goals set when the kid Kyle (Alex Shaffer) enters the life of Mike. It would step up to end in that major game to resolve the emotional and superficial problems of the characters. Yet it does not. Kyle has bleached blonde hair, tattoos in his back and an eerie terse response that goes with all this. He fled away from his Mom in Ohio and comes to stay with his grandpa Leo (Burt Young) he never met. Leo is suffering from dementia. He is the client of Mike whom Mike conveniently played the system to be his guardian so that he can put the old man in a retirement home the state planned to put in anyway and get the commission for taking care of him.

Kyle is a teenager and a spooky one but we come to understand him and see him at his best in the sport. He becomes the encouraging factor for the life surrounding Mike. See it is not alone Mike who needed a win but the people associated with him. I have been recently participating in decently competitive sport for fitness and fun. Being in it made me remember how it was to win something. During my college years winning a music competition meant the world. Not to be known or popular but simply the feeling of being basked in the warmth of achieving gets you up, running and kick the hell out of anything. While I have immersed myself into several of those brainless sports film against my brother’s passionate hate towards that, “Win Win” is the film which truly shapes it up inside of you.

This is Thomas McCarthy’s third film and he goes for merrier ride than his previous two films which I think is an information than a statement or criticism. He has a knack for lonely souls and he knows the happy souls who can kindle the vacated happiness in those solitary people. Mike is a family man with simple life and making ends meet. To him as like others including me being ultimately control of something. In the living ritual of furthering social existence it appears that the feeling has long gone without even leaving residues of its existence from the school days.

Ultimately “Win Win” is a film that takes sports as a backdrop for its front story. Alex playing Kyle becomes the sudden hope for the whole team of Mike. He plays Kyle with an easy casualness. When he plays his first match, he asks Mike to slap him on his headgear which becomes a routine and there you would see that he has more control over what is going to happen than any of the others in the room yet he is unbelievably cool about it. He is a fascination for many who aspire to achieve the best of the things in their life and he makes it look so easy.

Finally there comes Kyle’s mom Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) out of rehab and has all the judgments in the world shed upon by Jackie. We are revealed sparse information of the scenario Cindy, Kyle and Leo are in. Leo was not a great father from what Cindy tells while she has not been a great mother for Kyle and in between them is this young kid. He becomes Mike’s family and in the end when Cindy accepts a deal with heavy heart we do not despise her but understand her with a judgment. That is the beauty of McCarthy’s films wherein there are not branded bad people but humans doing small and huge mistakes to regret, repent and redeem.

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