Sean K. Cureton

Indy Jersey

In Movie Reviews: 2011 on May 17, 2011 at 8:25 pm

Theatrical Poster

Win Win
Directed by Thomas McCarthy
3 out of 4 stars

Coming off the critical success of his first two films, New Jersey native Thomas McCarthy has directed his third Indy film that just goes to show that there is more to New Jersey than just the Sopranos and Kevin Smith. Win Win is a phenomenal film that is laugh out loud funny while dealing with quite dark and serious plot points. Set from the point of view of lawyer Mike Flaherty(Paul Giamatti), Win Win is about a good natured husband and pillar of the community who adopts a strange teenager who shows up on the doorstep of an elderly and infirm client of Mike’s. Soon after taking Kyle in, played by actual New Jersey wrestling champ Alex Shaffer, Mike finds out about Kyle’s past as a wrestler, and recruits him to his own failing team. The plot thickens from there, but it would be amiss to spoil anymore of the plot.

What is so special about this film, and what sets it apart from other sports films like it, is that McCarthy isn’t directing like a sports fan, he is directing like a film fan. The wrestling matches within the film are there, but they aren’t there for the sake of the sport, they are there to work as a larger metaphor for both Mike and Kyle, who are both controlled by things in the outside world that hold no power within the wrestling match. In other words, the wrestling that takes place within the film serves as the one source of control that Mike and Kyle have in an otherwise stressful and cruel world.

Giamatti is in top form as Mike, and he is accompanied by the likes of Amy Ryan as his wife Jackie, Jeffrey Tambor as co-coach Stephen Vigman, and Bobby Cannavale as the off-beat friend Terry Delfino, who all work really well off of Giamatti’s energy. Even non-actor Alex Shaffer’s performance shines in the film. If you didn’t know that Shaffer wasn’t really an actor, you might just think that he was an up and comer, and for all anyone knows, he could be.

Win Win just goes to show that great Indy films can be made in Jersey, and that Garden State, and films like it, can still be made there. With his third film, Thomas McCarthy proves that he has the skills to consistently deliver good films, and further seats himself within the ranks of the better Indy directors working today.

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