Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy’s mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.
WIN WIN; is a somewhat effective story starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffery Tambor and Burt Young. The story is about a lawyer who is barely making it and has a nice wife and kind of a marginal life; his practice is old people so he doesn’t really have much money. And he has Burt Young, who is charming but somewhat senile, who wants to save his own home but has been declared incompetent. So Paul, in a moment of somewhat craven self interest, decides to be appointed as guardian to keep him at home for the custodial fee but dumps him into a nursing home. All of this works okay until Alex Schaefer, playing a punk 15 year old, shows up on the doorstep of grandfather’s house, in which grandfather is not living, because his mother is drug addicted and his mother’s boyfriend just beats the daylights out of him. It turns out that Paul, among other things, coaches high school wrestling as ineffectively as he runs his law practice, and it turns out that young Alex is a great wrestler. This is a story that actually has some resonance. I mean you like the people in it, and you care about them. The marvelous Margot Martindale has a brief cameo. It’s a movie that makes you feel that these are real people. The problem is that — well Paul Giamatti is a really good actor. This is the second movie he’s been in, in the last couple of months where he’s the leading man, and I just think charisma counts. And he is not very charismatic. And to watch a character for an hour and 45 minutes or two hours that you don’t feel some electricity with is tiresome. So while I like the movie, I certainly wouldn’t give it any more than three stars. The plot is great, the acting is great, there is just no entertainment really value in it, which is a problem. So three stars.