Win Win Movie Review: Wrestling the Angel

Win Win isn’t just another Paul Giamatti indie movie.  Unlike many of his recent offerings, Win Win is an enjoyable, likable film, with a deep meaning that doesn’t insist on having a deadening effect on the pleasure of the viewing.  It’s also a movie that deals with the Jamesian formulation of the difference between doing the good thing and doing the right thing.

Roger Ebert likened Win Win to a sit-com, and the scenarios reflect that.  Paul Giamatti, a down on his luck lawyer, interposes himself in a court case involving a wealthy elderly man being evicted from his home due to senility.  Instead of having him put in a home, Giamatti volunteers to be his caregiver and receive a monthly check.  He then takes the check and puts him in a home.  From this reprehensible act, he sets up a chain of events that leaves him putting up his ward’s sullen grandson in his own home.  Giamatti also happens to be a wrestling coach, and, who’d-a-thunk-it, the boy now living in his basement is a phenomenal wrestler.

The conflict of Win Win then revolves around Giamatti and his family having to choose the good thing over the right thing.

What’s so interesting about Win Win is that it starts out with several characters caught in stasis until a single act stirs up their daily routines.  If not for Giamatti’s transgression, it’s very possible they’d be stuck in their spiritual deadlock and suburban torpor forever.  It’s about the role coincidence/fate/divine intervention (whatever you want to call it) plays in our lives.  It’s primarily for the story that I’d recommend the film.

The directing is adequate; it’s a movie made in the style of Little Miss Sunshine, with a similar mixture of sentiment and droll humor.  The flaw of Win Win is that, in several scenes, it suddenly shifts into maudlin melodrama before the scene changes and it’s all very light and droll again.  The other weird choice made in the film is that the running gag throughout involves normally PC characters suddenly swearing (and the gag gets old).  If not for the gag, it’d be a popular family film.  Instead, Win Win is a sleeper worth staying up for.

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What would be your review of Win Win?

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