Paul Giamatti is a wonderful actor and an asset to any film in which he appears. In Win Win, he proves again that he is a powerful agent in raising a film to the high standard that viewers crave. Paul plays a small-town attorney, Mike Flaherty, whose practice is slowing down. He also holds down an evening job as a high school wrestling coach whose team is still looking for their first win.
A wealthy client, Leo Poplar, faces life in a nursing home because he has no one to care for him since he has experienced the onset of dementia. His out-of-town daughter, Cindy, is in rehab for drug addiction and cannot act as her father’s guardian. Mike seizes the opportunity to make $1,500 a month by asking the judge to grant him guardianship over Leo. He assures the judge that he will allow Leo to stay in the home he has always lived in, and Mike would take care of all of his needs. The judge agrees, but Mike goes back on his promise and sets Leo up in a nursing home while looking after his financial and emotional needs.
Mike’s life becomes complicated when Leo’s grandson, Cindy’s son Kyle, shows up on Mike’s doorstep after Cindy is released from rehab. Kyle does not want to live at home with Cindy and her boyfriend and had expected to stay with his grandfather Leo. Mike’s wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) insists that Kyle should stay with them and their two small girls. Jackie is unaware of Mike’s struggles with his law practice.
A sub-plot evolves as Kyle proves to be a champion wrestler and is just the push that the team needs to start winning. Mike manages to enroll Kyle in high school and signs him up to be on the wrestling team. The best scenes in the film are those showing Kyle in the wrestling sequences. It looks quite realistic and the young actor, Alex Shaffer, is to be commended for his performance in these scenes.
It is unclear to the viewer why sub-titles were included in the DVD version of this film. It was not distracting, but neither was it necessary for the average person to comprehend the story.
It is not often that a main character is shown to be flawed in his dealings as Mike was in accepting the guardianship of Leo, but on his own terms, without revealing the terms to anyone. It is understandable that his conduct should blow up in his face. Nevertheless, he sees the error of his ways when Kyle finds out that the judge was led to believe that Leo would be staying in his own home, not in a nursing home. Another complication arises when Cindy comes forth to demand the guardianship, albeit for the money that she would receive for this service. The viewer fortunately is still on hand when Mike redeems himself at the end by doing the right thing all around.
This is not your run-of-the-mill movie. It is worth watching for many reasons. The cast alone is extraordinary, given that only two or three names are familiar to moviegoers.
Win Win (2011)