Win Win [Blu-Ray]
A mother drops some dishes into the sink improperly and mutters, ďShit.Ē Soon after, a red-headed daughter spills some orange juice, unjoyfully mimicking her mother. A father tells his daughter not to use that word, while his wife wonders aloud when heíll take care of getting a tree cut down. The husband gets in his car, finding a little bit of solace, and all he can think to use is the same, small-minded potty word to vent his feelings.
This is the Flaherty family of New Jersey, a little mouthy and a little messy, but generally well-meaning. The mother, Jackie (Amy Ryan), is a stay-at-home mom with two young girls (Marcia Haufrecht and Penelope and Sophia Kindred). The father, Mike (Paul Giamatti), is a struggling lawyer and high school wrestling coach who has recently made what seems to be a win-win decision: he has taken over the guardianship of one of his clients, Leo (Burt Young), in exchange for a $1,500 dollar monthly check. In return, Mikeís dementia-suffering client will live comfortably in a nursing home very near his former house.
Thereís only one hitch: In order to secure the guardianship, Mike told a judge he would allow Leo to live at home as his client had wished. Itís a minute lie, and there is no reason Mike should ever be caught. Until Leoís grandkid, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up looking for the grandfather he has never met. Kyle comes from a broken home, his mother (Melanie Lynskey) is currently in rehab, and he needs a place to stay.
This whole setup is absurdly funny, but director Thomas McCarthy is careful to make certain thereís a story, too. Because of this Win Winís comedy is mostly situational, carefully crafted but more heartwarming than balls-to-the-wall. Which is a good thing, because Iím not sure Win Win would work as a comedianís comedy, anyway.
The longer Kyle stays with the Flaherty family, the more he becomes a part of them. He even joins Mikeís wrestling team, and, as it turns out, heís practically a prodigy. Of course, there would be no place for Win Win to go if everything kept propelling forward like a hunky-dory episode of The Brady Bunch. Luckily, Win Win is better than that. In its third act, Kyleís mom shows up, hell-bent on returning to Ohio with her son and father. Of course, that outcome wouldnít be good for anyone.
Thomas McCarthy discusses on the disc how he was going for moments of ďquiet humanity.Ē Win Win is not a loud movie, and because of this, it never comes across as preachy, hopeless, or clichť. It does come across as blatantly, unapologetically entertaining, but that doesnít mean there isnít a little extra in store too. Giamatti, Ryan, and Jeffrey Tambor (who plays Mikeís assistant coach) are all gems, Lynskey puts in another solid performance, and even newcomer Shaffer is perfect for his tight-lipped, teenaged role. Things may turn out exactly as the audience expects from Act 1 on, but that doesnít mean the movie still isnít unexpected. It would never fit in with the Remember the Titans of the world, and it certainly is no Talladega Nights. Win Win is its own little brand of quirk, and if that doesnít prove a winner, I guess I just donít understand the rules of the game.
The disc is a little weird to maneuver through. When you click on the extras section, the extras choices pop up above. I kept thinking I needed to scroll to get to them, but it turns out all you need to do is click on Ďem.
The first extra is a dismal deleted scenes section, featuring a mere two short segments. After that, though, the extras kick up a gear. There are two commentary featurettes. The first is with Thomas McCarthy and Joe Tiboni as they discuss the kickoff point for Win Winís story and wrestling adventures from their childhoods. The second interview is with McCarthy again, but also Giamatti. This interview is from the Sundance Film festival after Win Win made its debut, so it has a totally different viewpoint. One thing I will add is that McCarthy is such a talker.
Oddly, a montage from Sundance is also included, and only features David W. Thompson, the kid who plays Kyleís friend, Stemler. Itís kind of silly, and since Stemler isnít overly important to the plot, I wonder if someone just found the footage and tossed it onto the disc as an afterthought.
Next, there is a video for The National song, ďThink You Can Wait,Ē which appears in the credits to the film. Youíll totally be able to see why the video appears in the credits and not the film itself. Overall the film is too lighthearted to need the sorrow in Matt Berningerís voice to make a point. This isnít an episode of Parenthood. With the theatrical trailer tacked on to round out the special features, Win Win still makes for an alright set.
Reviewed By: Jessica Grabert