- Apr 24, 2006
- Charlotte, NC
- Real Name
- Matt Hough
A warm, amiable domestic comedy-drama of quiet merit and notable good intentions, Tom McCarthy’s Win Win scores a win for itself. While possessing neither distinctive cinematic touches nor much in the way of an innovative story, Win Win makes the most of its attributes: an excellent cast including an appealing newcomer, a familiar story that doesn’t bask in its sentimentality, and a sports angle to the story that for once isn’t exploitive or hackneyed and predictable. This drowsy little sleeper of a movie contains a winning formula for adult viewing.
Win Win (Blu-ray)
Directed by Tom McCarthy
Studio: 20th Century Fox
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p AVC codec
Running Time: 106 minutes
Audio: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 English; Dolby Digital 5.1 French, Spanish
Subtitles: SDH, Spanish
MSRP: $ 39.99
Release Date: August 23 , 2011
Review Date: August 23, 2011
Struggling to make ends meet with his failing legal business, attorney and part time high school wrestling coach Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) assumes guardianship (in a questionable legal action) of sweet but bordering-on-dementia client Leo Poplar (Burt Young). The $1,500 a month he gets for his service will help him pay many overdue bills at work and home. But into his life comes on-the-run teen Kyle (Alex Shaffer) who’s left his Ohio home to come to New Jersey in the hopes of living with his grandfather Leo. Since Mike has put Leo in an assisted living facility, Kyle must come to live with the Flahertys. Mike’s wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) is suspicious when they can’t reach Kyle’s mother (Melanie Lynskey) to inform her of his living situation, but Kyle eventually informs them she’s once again in rehab with no interest in raising him or caring for her father. As Kyle sees what it’s like to live with a loving, supportive family, he blossoms going back to school and beginning his wrestling career again, something he had left behind in trying to cope with his impossible situation at home. But just as things begin falling into place, his mom arrives looking for her son and her father.
Based on incidents from the lives of writer Joe Tiboni and director/co-writer Tom McCarthy, the script has the honest feel of reality to it. Everyone has flaws, and nothing has been painted with the feel-good brush. What eventually generates that wonderful sense of enjoyment and pleasure arises from genuine human interactions and carefully composed character construction amid legitimate dramatic events. Friendships old and new seem valid, and by infusing the adult characters with some personality quirks that endear them to the audience, the filmmakers buy a lot of audience identification and support. Though the sport of high school wrestling certainly plays a part in the proceedings, this is not one of those sports-based films where the underdog struggles to make it to the big match that climaxes the film. Win Win is much more sophisticated and smart for that kind of predictable plot contrivance. When we are at matches, director McCarthy films them from several angles (sometimes underneath staring up at a funny banner that reads “If you can read this, you’re pinned”), but he’s much more interested in the byplay between characters. The burgeoning father-son bond between Mike and Kyle is incredibly moving, and Mike and his best friend Terry Delfino (Bobby Cannavale) share a camaraderie that’s gently joshing but always supportive. The director and his co-writer have made sure to keep the emphasis on people, and it pays off in fashioning a wonderfully involving and empathetic enterprise. If the writers could have soft-pedaled the overuse of profanity which earned the film its R rating, this would be a fine family film.
Paul Giamatti plays another one of his schlubby characters, grappling with life’s big and little problems like a dog scratching its fleas. We can read his shame over his dire financial straits all over his face, even in court when he pulls the coup that will win him that monthly $1,500 stipend, and yet he never loses our sympathies since greed isn’t uppermost in his thoughts. He has a tender but true relationship with his tough talking wife Jackie so superbly played by Amy Ryan without a touch of overemphasis on either the kindhearted or harsh sides of her temperament. Alex Shaffer is a real find as Kyle. His dead-panned politeness is charming and completely ingratiating, and one roots for him to somehow find a way around the claims of his selfish, grasping mother acted for all its worth by Melanie Lynskey. Burt Young does fine work as the mentally ailing Leo Poplar while Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor as close friends of Mike’s do their parts to keep up the film’s lighter moments. Margo Martindale has a couple of key scenes as an attorney brought in to cloud further the sticky legal matters of the guardianship situation.
The film has been framed at its theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1 and is presented in 1080p using the AVC codec. The image is a very natural and appealing one with fine sharpness that offers many facial and object details in close-ups and excellent color reproduction that is never overstated or diluted. Flesh tones are realistic throughout. Black levels are good but not outstanding. The film has been divided into 24 chapters.
The DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound mix offers a subdued sound design with much of the ambient noises lying in the front channels rather than being spread through all of the available soundstage. Dialogue has been well recorded and has been put in the center channel. The Lyle Workman music score along with some pop songs have a decent spread through the available channels but are more front channel-based than uniformly spread throughout.
All video supplements are presented in 1080p.
There are two deleted scenes which may be viewed separately or in a 2-minute collection.
Director Tom McCarthy and co-writer Joe Tiboni discuss the genesis for their screenplay and reminisce about their growing up years in school on the high school wrestling team. This piece runs 6 ½ minutes.
Actor David Thompson (who plays inept wrestler Stemler in the movie) goofs around at Sundance in this 2 ½-minute vignette.
Director Tom McCarthy and actor Paul Giamatti discuss the film in a joint interview at Sundance in 2011. This runs 2 ½ minutes.
“Family” is the EPK introduction to the film, a 2 ½-minute summary of the characters and story of the movie.
“Think You Can Wait” music video is performed by The National and runs 4 ½ minutes.
The film’s theatrical trailer runs 2 ¼ minutes.
The disc offers 1080p promo ads for The Tree of Life, Another Earth, Henry’s Crime, and Skateland.
4/5 (not an average)
A wonderfully engaging and heart-tugging domestic comedy-drama of real merit. Win Win earns its title. It’s a real winner and one film I can heartily endorse. Recommended!