Written and directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer, Bobby Cannavale
“Win Win” is a timely morality tale with poignant moments, but the busy plot foils any hope for these moments to coalesce into a potent story. Entertaining in fits and starts, “Win Win” is not nearly as eloquent as Tom McCarthy’s first two films, “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor.”
Paul Giamatti stars as a down-on-his-luck lawyer, Mike Flaherty, who moonlights as a high-school wrestling coach to earn extra money for his family. Unbeknownst to his wife, played by a spunky Amy Ryan, they are behind in the bills. Another secret he neglects to share is that he’s bamboozling an elderly client, Leo, out of $1,500 a month by pretending to be the geezer’s guardian.
This is already a lot of moral conflict for one man to shoulder, but it gets even more complicated when Leo’s grandson shows up at his door. Flaherty provides the kid with temporary shelter — at first to his wife’s dismay but eventually, once the runaway opens up about his abusive upbringing, at her insistence. It turns out the teen is a brilliant wrestler, and Flaherty drafts him onto his pathetic team.
Flaherty’s moral struggles feel real — your sympathies for him are in perfect conflict with his foibles — and the supporting cast is strong. Still, something feels off-center.
In “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor,” McCarthy’s writing was the real deal — genuine, charming, the opposite of flashy. “Win Win” is a script of the same ilk, but the sensibility is much more manufactured.
Playing at the Angelika and Lincoln Plaza