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Movie review: 'Win Win' (2.5 stars)

Win Win

Win Win

Win Win
2.5 stars
Written and directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer, Bobby Cannavale
Rated R

“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


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