Giamatti on a winner
NO ONE can do down-and-out-andup-to-something in a movie better than the great Paul Giamatti.
The perpetually sly and rumpled star of Sideways and Barney’s Version is in fine form in Win Win, a graceful light comedy with a few wellplaced smudges of serious drama.
Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a small-time smalltown lawyer running out of time and money fast. With a young family to provide for, some quick thinking is needed.
Or perhaps, no thinking at all. One day in court, Mike finds himself volunteering to become the guardian of Leo ( Burt Young), an elderly local in the first stages of dementia.
Why? So he can secretly claim the commission from the administration of Leo’s estate, a stipend which effectively doubles his weekly salary.
In an odd twist, Mike and his wife ( Amy Ryan) are also forced to take in Leo’s runaway grandson Kyle ( Alex Shaffer, pictured with Giamatti). As luck would have it, Kyle is a gifted amateur wrestler. And, wouldn’t you know it, in his spare time, Mike is a not-so-gifted wrestling coach.
Suddenly, life is looking good for Mike Flaherty. With the bucks rolling in and his young team on a roll, what could possibly go wrong? The answer of course, is everything.
The rot sets in once Leo’s rightful heir – Kyle’s drug-addicted absentee mother ( Melanie Lynskey) – takes an interest in the welfare of her father.
Win Win is the work of respected American writer-director Thomas McCarthy, a shrewd operator whose films such as the 2007 gem The Visitor all trade in a wistful take on the ups and downs of everyday life.
With Giamatti in complete control from the opening scenes, there is no chance of Win Win losing your full attention at any juncture.