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Win Win

Go go to Paul McCarthy sweet, funny film about family

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It's win-win for Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer.
  • It's win-win for Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer.

Somewhere in New Jersey, Win Win introduces us to Mike, a decent family man with a struggling law practice. Mike (a wonderful Paul Giamatti) makes an unethical move: He collects the state-guardianship benefit for his cantankerous client, Leo (Burt Young). Then Leo's troubled teen-age grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer) turns up, and Mike and his wife (Amy Ryan) do the right (if not entirely legal) thing, and take him in. Kyle's wrestling skills are a tonic for the hapless high school team Mike coaches with his buddies (Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale). Then, things fall apart, as any human endeavor is wont do. It's a disservice to call Win Win a "little movie"; while it's certainly small-scale and rich with low-key performances, it has terrific heart and an able grasp of how ordinary life is both pedestrian and full of profound changes. It's a polished gem from writer-director (and sometime actor) Tom McCarthy, who deftly mixes humor and drama. (This is his third film, after The Station Agent and The Visitor.) From its marketing, I fear this film may get dismissed as an inspirational sports movie, but it's anything but. I also hesitate to tell you it's a sweet affirmation of family, because that sounds sappy, and this film isn't. You should just go go.

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