Sunday, May 1, 2011

Paragraph Movie Reviews: Win Win

If you don't have plans to see this movie, you can check the spoilers here and then come back.

Somewhat unevenly paced and with not always the strongest script, good performances and and underlying heart in the story still help this one come out slightly ahead on points (there's your forced amateur wrestling reference). It's a slow starter as we meet Paul Giamatti's down-on-his-luck lawyer/high school wrestling coach, but once Alex Shaffer, the stoic wrestling prodigy grandson of the old man Giamatti has agreed to take care of (for money) enters the picture, things pick up, perhaps a bit too much towards the end as the climax gets rushed. It's a somewhat by the numbers feel good movie along the lines of The Blind Side, but while not quite as adept as that film in masking the predictability with quality, the expected story structure still doesn't present a problem here as the comedy is strong enough to cover. Giamatti is solid in his role, but the real stars are Amy Ryan as his grounded and no nonsense wife--she's the character you'd actually want to know in real life--Bobby Cannavale as his comic relief best buddy and especially Shaffer, who impressed the heck out of me by projecting a great performance with minimal emotion and then making his explosion in the third act all the more powerful. Rocky veteran Burt Young is a treat as an aging gent at the onset of dementia but determined to maintain his independence and Jeffrey Tambor as the hapless assistant coach does fine with what he's given (which isn't much). Again, the real weaknesses come from the script, with its reliance on similar gags and language (the word "scumbag" is used half a dozen times without irony) and moreover general lack of clarity (I was as in the dark about some of Giamatti's character's motivations as the rest of the cast until the final minutes). From a craft standpoint, I could (and just did) take issue with how the movie was made, but the finished product was fun to watch, so it certainly overcomes its handicaps pretty well.