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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 September 2013
** Contains midpoint plot synopsis**

The movie lures you into a false sense of security as it shows a normal middle class New Jersey family all while playing an acoustical "indy" guitar. Paul Giamatti plays a lawyer who isn't doing too well financially (apparently he doesn't handle bankruptcies). He has an aged rich client Leo Poplar, (Burt Young, Pauly from Rocky) who is in the early stages of dementia. Unable to contact Leo's daughter in Ohio (we later find out she was in rehab) he goes to court and gets appointed as his legal guardian/caretaker. The state was going to place Leo in a care facility, however Giamatti convinces the judge Leo would be better at home and agrees to take care of Leo at home...for the $1500 a month fee. As it turns out Giamatti was dishonest (not a lawyer!) and puts Leo in a home anyway, telling him it was the judge's orders.

As fate would have it, Kyle, Leo's 16 year old grandson from Ohio is sitting on his doorstop as Paul drives by. He takes Kyle in temporarily. Paul also coaches the HS wrestling team which doesn't win matches. As it turns out Kyle is a ringer. When Kyle's hated mother shows up, she throws a wrench into the works as Paul's deception has become uncovered.

The characters in the story are realistic, they all have flaws that must be dealt with. When they have an opportunity to redeem themselves, like a good Disney flick they all take it. As a family film, I have to question some things. The movie drops the F bomb in stages. Kyle runs away from home in Ohio and takes the bus. Kyle at one point pushes his mother down on a bed and holds her down in anger.

The acting was great. Alex Schaffer did a good job as Kyle. Heart warming and funny at times. Highly recommend.
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Win Win is the tale of broke-lawyer Mike (Paul Giamatti - Shoot 'em Up) who tells a fib in order to keep his practice going. He takes legal guardianship of one of his elderly wards in order to pocket his care-commission. He's no shark though; putting in the effort to look after the guy and even opening up his home to his ward's errant grandson Kyle (Alex Schaffer). As things progress; Kyle finds roots for the first time in his life with Mike's family and even joins Mike's wrestling team - and man, is he good. For the first time in his life, Mike is paying the bills and with Kyle's help, whooping some ass at on the wrestling circuit, but when Kyle's drug-addict mum hears about the good Mike is doing for her dad and her son, she cottons on and wants in. How will Mike preserve this Win-Win situation for everyone?

Win Win is another Omega-male drama, but Giamatti's performance is sublime and brings a level of humanity to the role that is largely unparalleled. Alex Schaffer's performance as the monosyllabic Kyle is amazing, he literally couldn't have improved on his rendition. As the interactions between Mike and Kyle go from initially hostile to fatherly, he realises that Kyle is now his priority and quite frankly - screw the commission, because this is about people and their capacity to care for each other. Whether it's dementia-suffering grandpa Leo, angsty lost-soul Kyle or even the venomous drug-addicted mother - Mike shows compassion and care to all of them, on top of his wife & kids, in a myriad of ways that - I'm slightly ashamed to say - are real tear-jerkers. It's not all heavy-going thankfully, Mike's best-friend, the recently & bitterly divorced Terry (Bobby Canavale - The Other Guys) steps up to bat, by throwing himself into the assistant wrestling-coach position with a positive effect on the team, providing the comic relief.

Extras: Just the two deleted scenes and a commentary between director Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni.

Whilst Win Win hasn't breached new ground, it's execution is simply fantastic and I, for one, really connected with the story. Definitely worth your time if you get the chance!!
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This is a rather delightful and entertaining film that centres around Paul Giamatti's likeable and fundamentally honest lawyer. Like all honest lawyers he is struggling financially, and when temptation is put in his way he finally succumbs, doing a dodgy deal to make income from the management of the estate of Burt Young. Things are complicated when Young's wayward grandson shows up, followed by his selfish mother who can smell some easy money and doesn't care who gets hurt along the way. Giamatti finds himself taking said Grandson in, and in an odd turn of events becomes his wrestling coach. Giamatti's shenanigans start to unravel, grandson becomes the hero and inspiration for his struggling team and a fascinating climax is reached where many characters find redemption.

The story is powered by a fine performance from Giamatti. It would be too easy to descend into uncomfortable schmaltz, but he anchors it in reality, making a moving and believable character. The ever dependable Burt Young is on fine form as the slightly confused old man and his appearance is a real highlight of the film. It's all a bit low key, but is a fine film that keeps you interested for it's run time, and shows people for what they really are while never being preachy. It also has some fine comic moments, so what more could you really ask? 4 stars.
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TOP 500 REVIEWERon 5 December 2014
Established actor and (latterly) writer-director Thomas McCarthy’s 2011 film Win Win represents many of the best things about US ‘indie’ cinema. It’s not exactly ground-breaking stuff, but instead provides (mostly) low-key, but humorous and perceptive, domestic drama, as Paul Giamatti’s (failing) 'out-of-town’ lawyer and family man, Mike Flaherty, ditches his 'natural’ honesty (by fraudulently claiming maintenance payments for one of his elderly clients) in order to maintain his 'safe middle-class lifestyle’. Having previously made the impressive The Station Agent and The Visitor, McCarthy’s style here reminds me of that of fellow ‘US indie’ film-maker Alexander Payne, with whose excellent tragic-comedy Sideways Win Win shares a number of common characteristics and themes.

Indeed, if I were to imagine Giamatti’s 'loser’ Miles Raymond from Sideways, now married and with a family, he would likely be McCarthy’s central character here – kind-hearted, but still (a little) frustrated with his lot and hoping to get by using his 'scam’. But when Alex Shaffer’s abandoned and laid-back teen (and grandson of Mike’s client, Burt Young’s Leo), Kyle, suddenly appears, we know things are destined to become more 'complicated’ for Flaherty. McCarthy’s film here begins to morph into a 'Rocky-like’ narrative as Kyle reveals his talent for wrestling, thereby turning round the fortunes of (part-time trainer) Flaherty’s local club – much to the delight of 'co-trainers’ Jeffrey Tambor’s bumbling 'Vig’ and Bobby Cannavale’s smart-talking, 'flash harry’ (the equivalent of Thomas Haden Church’s Jack from Sideways), Terry – as well as being 'adopted’ into the Flaherty family (after initial reluctance) by Mike’s wife, Jackie, the impressive Amy Ryan.

The film’s sporting thread of 'boy makes good’ is, of course, well-trodden (though the wrestling angle is relatively novel, I guess) – however the comic interchanges between Giamatti, Cannavale and Tambor make for some hilarious moments. The film also strays a little into sentimentality, particularly after Kyle’s ex-druggie mother, Melanie Lynskey’s Cindy, arrives on the scene wanting her father and son back. In the end though (for me) McCarthy just about manages to mix the tragic, comic and sentimental to convincing effect, provides some perceptive commentary on issue of parenting and caring for the elderly, and (of course) Giamatti can always be guaranteed to provide plenty of powerful moments of poignancy and empathy.
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on 20 July 2014
I had to remind myself why 'Win Win' was on my 'films to watch' list. Looking at imdb I remembered that it's directed by the actor/director Thomas McCarthy and he directed 'The Station Agent' in 2004, one of my favourite movies.

It stars a very likeable cast of actors. In the helm is Paul Giamatti who can play losers, (I hate that term - my favourite people are considered losers), to the President of the United States. He's also played some monsters. In this he plays the everyman, a salt of the earth character, a bit like in 'Sideways'. All the characters are terrific from the five year old daughter to "hey now" Jeffrey Tambor's character.

The young lad played by Alex Shaffer is comfortable in his own skin and is straight forward and honest. It is similar to 'The Station Agent' in that it is about a group of people who aren't all related who treat each other like family. They look out for each other and this is what I like so much.

Not everyone does act decently in the end but there is forgiveness and redemption and people are given a second chance despite their selfishness and frailties.

Before I knew it I was watching a sports movie of sorts and I enjoyed every moment of it. Even, despite my earlier protestations, the act of winning.
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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 2 September 2012
Win Win follows hard working family man & small town lawyer Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti (Lady In The Water), who also coaches the high school wrestling team in his spare time. One of his clients Leo Poplar(Burt Young -Rocky) who is wealthy & suffering with the early onset of dementia, has his case of guardianship come up in court, where upon the financialy struggling Mike, decides to take on the role, but not quite as promisied. Meanwhile when a young boy, Kyle (Alex Shaffer-Win Win) turns up on the doorstep, Leo's grandson, and turns out to be an ex-wrestling champion, he stays with them after leaving his estranged mother, much to the delight of Mike, whose losing team gets a new star player. But when Kyle's mother appears, they are all going to have to face upto some hard truths.

Overall i really enjoyed Win Win, the story may not be as exciting for some tastes, but it makes for a great endearing movie, that has you feel as though your a fly on the wall in this genuine dysfunctional family's life. Paul Giamatti, one of my favourite supporting actors of all time, and here as the lead, shines in his role that was truely meant for him, with a mixture of comedy & serious acting with his bittersweet character. He is helped with a great support cast of his own, the young unkown Alex Shaffer, who in real life was a wrestling champion untill a bad injury to his spine forced him to retire. He was great alongside Giamatti, with a strong performance, as the two made the backbone of the film work really well. Also in support, Bobby Cannavale & Jeffrey Tambor were funny as Giamatti's friend's & coach's, Amy Ryan was sweet as Mike's loyal wife, while Melanie Lynskey (Two and a Half Men[Rose]) i thought was oddly cast as the two faced mother, who just looks & sounds so sweet & innocent, bless her cotton socks. Note, there is some strong langauge content.

In conclusion, Win Win is a very watchable & endearing movie, that rolls along nicely with a mixture of serious drama & some genuinely funny moments thrown in along the way. Reccomended.
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Paul Giamatti has swiftly risen to prominence in recent years, with films such as the bittersweet Sideways [DVD], American Splendor [DVD] [2004] and Cinderella Man [DVD] [2005], after an early career as a supporting player. He seems to have cornered the market in harassed suburban everymen, and with his bug-eyed stare and dumpy figure he is instantly recognisable.
This film sees Giamatti's economically challenged lawyer, Mike, inadvertently take a young teenage runaway into his family, much to the chagrin of his wife; unbeknownst to anyone else though, Mike is taking a payment from the boy's Grandfather for being the old man's guardian, supposedly because he is caring for him but actually he's put the confused guy into a care home.
This is definitely a film for our current financially messed-up times, and the story of a decent man trying to do the right thing for what are basically selfish reasons is a resonant one. Giamatti and his young protege spar off one another well, and with a light-hearted cameo from Third Watch's Bobby Cannavale, plus strong performances from veteran Burt Young and Alex Shaffer as the mixed-up teenager, this is a solid and at times powerful film.
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on 29 June 2013
If I described the story, it may seem like a pretty standard troubled-kid-with-troubled-family plot. It is anything but. Great, understated acting, and a lesson of how a small decision taken can leave huge wreckage all over families, workplaces, relationships and hobbies. A bit like real life really?
This movie has a small budget feel but I suspect it had a much larger budget than you would imagine. Maybe we should call it a mid-budget movie? Whoever is behind this kind of non-cheesy, guns'n'bombs, rom/com Hollywood film making, give us more please.
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on 12 August 2011
I saw win win a couple of months ago and was very impressed by it. It doesn't break any new ground as a genre, nor does it take you by the seat of your pants to the heights of personal or collective glory. Win win is a heartfelt but never sentimental story of contemporary lower-middle class american life that touched me simply because it refuses to take an easy route out of the problems confronting any of it's key characters (which are most of the cast). The (occasionally brutal) wrestling scenes are complemented by a brilliant sense of humour, and the playing out of events is represented with a sense of necessity that the vast majority of working americans (or any other western citizen) should be able to relate to. I haven't seen Sideways yet so I can't comment on any copy-acting across films, but what I saw here especially from Alex Shaffer and Paul Giammati was a simple story put to dramatic effect - with laughs(!)
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on 11 October 2011
Paul Giamatti plays the lovable loser( well hes not a loser just medicore) in this enjoyable little film. The story's simple, sentimental, cheesey(although never too cheesey). My advice is to pre order this film and enjoy a film based on story rather than special effects(although special effects rock).
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