directed by Thomas McCarthy
The verdict is in, folks: writer director Thomas McCarthy is dud proof. The title of his newest film, Win Win, could very well be the title of a film about his professional endeavors. In fact, just after viewing his latest gem, I started mentally composing this review, and I thought, “Okay, I need to reference my earlier reviews for The Station Agent and The Visitor without just repeating myself.” It is at this point that I want to apologize to you, Mr. McCarthy, for I shamefully realize that I have not actually reviewed any of your films. And I apologize to you, my ones of fellow film lovers who actually read OMFBC, because I was of the impression that I had expressed my love for the authentically sincere and non showy voice and vision of Thomas McCarthy. His newest film is great in every right way, a film about lawyer and family man Mike (is Paul Giamatti ever not astoundingly wonderful?) who, struggling to make ends meet, takes on an elderly ward named Leo (a fantastic Burt Young) in exchange for a slice of government cheese. A wrench in the works comes in the form of 16 year old Kyle (Alex Shaffer), Leo’s estranged grandson whom he has never met. Mike and wife Jackie (Amy Ryan is perfect) take Kyle in, and when Kyle asks to practice with the wrestling team Mike coaches, it turns out that Kyle is a tatted up state champ with some fierce moves. McCarthy is an actor himself and it shows in his work, for all of his films feature top notch talent giving some of their best performances (Richard Jenkins in The Visitor was an Oscar contender that year, in my opinion). The only qualm I have with this film is that at times (and it’s only some of the time) it was apparent that Shaffer just wasn’t as strong an actor as the rest of his cast. That could have to do with his age, his level of experience, and the fact that he is surrounded by fabulous actors on all sides, very fabulous actors like Ryan, Giamatti, Young, Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale. I am saying this not to snidely find fault, but simply to say that when the rest of the film is so good, you can forgive a green actor when he plays the role so sincerely (and Shaffer does play the role with complete sincerity). Win Win, like all McCarthy films, resists convention and finds a core to which we can all relate. Bravo, Mr. M.