Judge David Johnson is a lose/lose proposition.
In the game of life, you can't lose 'em all.
Pay no attention to that generic tagline: Win Win is one of the true gems of 2011.
Facts of the Case
Paul Giamatti (Ironclad) stars as Mike Flaherty, a husband and father and struggling elder lawyer who, when faced with an unethical opportunity to bring in some extra money, compromises his scruples in a big way. The fallout of his decision leads a confused teenager into his life: Kyle (Alex Shaffer), who happens to be a world-class high school wrestler. And, hey, Mike is a high school wrestling coach!
Win Win had been on my radar ever since I caught a glance of the trailer. The tone grabbed me and I'll watch pretty much anything that Paul Giamatti appears in, so when the film arrived in the regional New Hampshire art house cinema (yes, we do have one) I jumped in line.
My instincts served me well. Director Tom McCarthy has fashioned a great little feel-good film, an indie comedy/drama that doesn't get sucked into playing the Oscar-bait cynicism card. I'll be up front now: Win Win doesn't lay on a melodramatic vein-opener to give it street credibility. You will eject this disc feeling pretty good.
Not that there isn't some dramatic punch. The flow shifts effortlessly and organically from light-hearted fare to more heavy-hitting life issues. Flaherty's decision at the beginning hangs over the film like a dark cloud and eventually that debt will have to be settled. It's a bold choice by McCarthy because, really, Flaherty is a genuinely good guy and his actions are detestable. Credit to the script and to Giamatti's performance to keep him sympathetic throughout.
At its core, Win Win is a movie about redemption and while I was extremely grateful that I wasn't taken down a road of despair, McCarthy's vision isn't Pollyannaish. Not everyone makes redemptive choices are some people are flawed a-holes. But there is likability here. Plenty of it. And it doesn't feel forced or fake.
Oh, there's some wrestling, too. Shaffer is an actual wrestler and lest you think you're in for merely a bunch of adults simmering in their complicated emotions, he throws a couple of fools around, making for an energetic and often comical series of sports sequences.
Good stuff all around. It may not push the envelope or try to make a name for itself because of its dark and dire subject matter, but Win Win accomplishes exactly what it sets out to do: present a good story, well-told.
The Blu-ray is 1.85:1, 1080p (AVC-encoded) widescreen, rendered with high-end clarity and color It's supported by a subdued but effective 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix; deleted scenes; a music video and a handful of promo-quality featurettes including interviews with Tom McCarthy and co-writer Joe Tiboni, actor David Thompson, McCarthy and Giamatti.
Take a break from the depressing news of ruinous federal debt and East Coast hurricanes. Win Win will turn that frown upside down.
Not Guilty. Buck up champ!
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Scales of Justice
• Deleted Scenes
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