Win Win (2011)

If there’s one thing Americans love, it’s sport. And if there’s one thing Americans love more than sport, it’s sport movies. Rocky, Jerry Maguire, and Gene Hackman’s genre-defining Hoosiers all kept cinemas as crammed as basketball stadiums over the years. Which brings us to new high school wrestling drama Win Win, a film that sticks close to the tropes of tried and true big-hitters (i.e. battered hero ‘finds’ himself again thanks to association with extracurricular activity) but never quite makes it into the premiere league of sporting classics.

Of course, Win Win is more than just a sports movie – it’s also a Paul Giamatti movie. With the Sideways actor having effectively cornered the market in down-on-their-luck depressed middle-agers, Win Win finds Giamatti playing New Jersey attorney Mike Flaherty. Struggling to support his wife and two kids, Mike’s on a one way road to Nowhereville. Until teen runaway Kyle (Alex Shaffer) tumbles into his life. Having fled his alcoholic mother, Kyle ends up bunking at the Flaherty’s, and when he enrols in the local high school where Mike’s a wrestling coach, Mike discovers that Kyle’s abilities on the wrestling mat far outshine those of his own team.

Directed by Thomas McCarthy, who also helmed exceptional middle-age drama The Visitor, Win Win is both cosy and charming. Amy Ryan in particular delivers a fantastic, no-bullshit turn as Giamatti’s long-suffering wife, while McCarthy keeps the domestic drama nicely in balance with the quirky comedy. But while the pacing rarely lags, Win Win’s feather light approach to drama feels more like a friendly local kick-about than a powerhouse Man U vs Liverpool clash. Which is no doubt McCarthy’s intention, his film having more in common with low-key indies than certain grandstanding boxing epics. In short: a winning drama that never punches above its weight. 4/5

Via Out In The City

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