Full of emotions, ‘Win Win’ takes viewers on an expressive, exciting roller coaster

By Kary Feick

Witty, humorous, and packed with an emotional, gold medal performance, ‘Win Win’ wrestles its way into theaters for a limited release on March 18, (wide release March 25.)

Directed and co-written by Thomas McCarthy, ‘Win Win’ dives into three genres: sports, drama, and comedy. While many films would never survive a split in three genres, McCarthy combines his skill with a well-written script, resulting in a five-star movie. ‘Win Win’ is an independent film, funded by Fox Searchlight Pictures. Even without a high-end film corporation, the story tops other spring films that were produced in famous studios.

The film begins with a moving shot; Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is running in the woods as two men pass him. Mike stops, turns around to his left, faces the camera, and the movie title ‘Win Win’ dissolves in. Due to a loud noise of an object falling off of her bedroom window, Abby (Clare Foley) wakes up in bed and she says the ‘s word.’ Abby: “Where’s daddy?” Jackie Flaherty (Amy Ryan): “He’s running” Abby: “From what?” The scene moves into the family kitchen during breakfast and Jackie also says the ‘s word.’

As the film progresses, viewers find the unapparent answer to what Mike really is running from. While he runs for his health, Mike also runs from a big lie he stepped into which spun out of control before he could even figure out how to tell his wife. Mike finds out Leo (Burt Young), an elderly client no longer able to live alone has money and will pay $1,500 a month to his caretaker. In an effort to hide his failing business from his family, Mike tells the court judge that he will take care of Leo, allowing Leo to remain in his own home.

Unknown that there is any family left to Leo, besides his crazy, drug-addicted daughter (Melanie Lynskey), the court agrees.

Later in the film, Leo’s grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up on his doorstep, insisting that he wants to live with his grandfather. Mike and Jackie cannot figure out what to do with blonde-haired, extroverted Kyle because he does not want anything to do with his mother, so they let Kyle stay in their basement. Uneasy about the unpredictable Kyle, Jackie humorously locks the basement door on Kyle’s first night there, but quickly unlocks it at Mike’s request.

Kyle stays long enough with the Flaherty’s that he becomes part of the family and even enrolls in the high school so that he can join the wrestling team, which Mike coaches. As the story unfolds, Kyle proves that he is amazing at wrestling and consistently pulls one of his “secret moves” at each wrestling match. Mike’s wrestling team becomes better, thanks to Kyle. Kyle’s wrestling success helps bring Mike and his family closer together. In an economic crisis, Kyle is the one thing that Mike can be proud of and hold on to. The film is dramatic, yet funny, but at the same time it is a little sad.

At the end of the film, I felt so attached to Leo, Kyle, and Mike that I did not want to exit the emotional roller coaster ride I had just been taken on. I feel that this film is one I will watch again in the theater and buy on DVD when it comes out. The only reason I disliked the movie was a violent, unexpected scene between Kyle and his mother as well as almost every character dropping the derogatory, unnecessary ‘s word’ throughout the film.

Rated R for minimal and suggestive violence as well as expressive language, ‘Win Win’ could take it down a notch. I feel that the movie does not need the repeated ‘s word’ and the violent scene between Kyle and his mother. If I had to rate the film without these factors, I would definitely say it was PG-13 because I feel like a young high school audience through seniors could enjoy this movie.

My favorite character in the film is Kyle. He shows up unexpected, complicates Mike’s life, and ends up making Mike a better person. I like how hard-core Kyle seemed; yet he also had some emotional issues passed on by his crazy mother.

I enjoyed the writer causing the audience to experience the film as if viewers were a part of it. I really liked the film title because Mike turns towards the camera, as if he is looking at the audience. This type of opening title touches on the famous fourth-wall concept. I felt like Mike was about to say, ‘and welcome to ‘Win Win’, please take your seats and enjoy the film.’

There is nothing very special or unique about the camera work, but even with an inexpensive camera, the film’s success is based on the well written, intriguing script. Packed with an emotional punch and the ability to relate to all families because no one’s family is perfect, ‘Win Win’ deserves recognition.

With a great cast, wonderful, three-genre script, and exciting plot, McCarthy will ‘Win Win’ over audiences, taking them into his film on the emotional, five-star rollercoaster.