Monday, 13 February 2012

2011 films: #8


Directed by Thomas McCarthy

This indie gem of a movie tells the story of a small American town in the state of New Jersey. It’s the kind of place well suited to beautiful losers. Troubled by ex-wives, low pay and God knows what else, they keep making their clumsy ways through the world, but, crucially, all seem to lack something (or someone) to make these lives meaningful enough. And this something comes in the form of a teenager named Kyle. Who, seemingly, can fix it all.

The central character (and, of course, the biggest loser of them all) is a lawyer named Mike Flaherty (Mike Giamatti). Mike’s life seems to have gone all wrong – and left him with just one choice: take advantage of one of his senile clients on the verge of dementia. Just for the money, of course. It’s at this moment that Kyle makes his surprising appearance. Haunted by his own problems (his mother is a drug addict), Kyle intends to live with his grandfather (Mike’s aforementioned client). But the main point is that Kyle happens to be a brilliant former wrestler who is capable of making Mike’s wrestling team of New Providence High School do something they have never done before. Which is: win. It all unravels like some fairy tale until the moment Kyle’s mother arrives. Then it gets complicated, and Mike’s shameful scheme breaks loose – inevitably.   

The plot is engaging enough, but it’s perhaps the superb acting that makes it all so good. While Giamatti’s performance is worthy of any prize, and Amy Ryan is reliably great as his wife, due kudos have to go to a charming and totally convincing Alex Shaffer – particularly since the role of Kyle happens to be his acting debut.

Win Win may well be 2011’s Little Miss Sunshine. It’s great, smart entertainment: it’s got laughs and it’s got heart. In fact, the only issue I have here is that the ending is a little too good. But then – that’s what “win win” actually means: the situation in which every side benefits (and that includes you). The edge lies in that essentially these are all losers. Who (sometimes) only need a second chance.

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