In many of his films, like Lady in the Water or Sideways, Paul Giamatti excels as the mopey guy who borders on depressive and struggles with life more than most.
In many of his films, like Lady in the Water or Sideways, Paul Giamatti excels as the mopey guy who borders on depressive and struggles with life more than most. In fact, if he were a dog he would most definitely be a St. Bernard, doughy-eyed and always looking a bit sad and in need of a hug. His character in comedy drama, Win Win is no exception and he does it so well, you are still left wanting to pat him on the head and tell him it is okay.
Giamatti plays Mike, a small town lawyer and part time boys’ wrestling coach who has reached a point in life where everything is a daily struggle, with his business and personal finances in dire straits. Mike is a good person and a family man but desperate times influence his decisions. He hatches a plan, assuming the state-paid role of legal guardian to elderly, senile client, Leo, placing him in a nursing home and pocketing the money. What Mike doesn’t bank on, however, is the arrival of Leo’s estranged grandson and both the chaotic and beneficial effects that he will have on his own daily life.
There are some nice characters in this film – Giamatti does play his role to a tee, but Burt Young is also wonderful as the disorientated, elderly Leo and makes you wonder if this is what Paulie Pennino from the Rocky movies would be like as a senile old man. Newcomer Alex Shaffer in his very first role excels as Leo’s well-meaning grandson, Kyle, with the perfect devil-may care nonchalance of a typical, ignored teenager. Despite being very different types of people, Mike and Kyle have much in common as they both struggle through life. Mike suffers in silence but brings out his middle-aged exasperations in his wrestling coaching, while Kyle brings his teenage frustrations out in taking part in the sport.
Win Win is simultaneously serious and funny, but it is not an uncomfortable watch – you genuinely do care about Mike’s predicament and the plight of each character. It doesn’t pass judgement, but just allows the characters to be human. This film is a story of morality and the daily struggles of life. It is not the most riveting, suspenseful watch, but it is a sweet little comedy that, like Giamatti’s characters, has its heart in the right place.