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DVD Review: Win Win

August 23, 2011

Win Win – A 20th Century Fox Release

DVD Release Date: August 23rd, 2011

Rated 14A for coarse language

Running time: 106 minutes

Thomas McCarthy (dir.)

Thomas McCarthy (screenplay)

Joe Tiboni (story)

Lyle Workman (music)

Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty

Amy Ryan as Jackie Flaherty

Bobby Cannavale as Terry Delfino

Alex Shaffer as Kyle

Our reviews below:


Win Win DVD Review By John C.

***1/2 (out of 4)

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a small town lawyer.  Between his wife (Amy Ryan) and young daughters, money is tight, so he spends his spare time coaching a local wrestling team.  But his life is changed when he accepts custody of Leo Poplar (Burt Young), an elderly man succumbing to dementia.  When the man’s grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up on his doorstep, Mike gives the teenager a place to stay and even discovers in him a bona fide star for his wrestling team.  But when Kyle’s mother (Melanie Lynskey) shows up fresh out of rehab, the truth behind the lawyer’s seemingly perfect “win win” situation threatens to come out of the dark.

I was a big fan of writer-director Thomas McCarthy’s wonderful first film, The Station Agent, as well as his excellent sophomore effort, The Visitor.  On every level, Win Win is a nice bookend to this unofficial trilogy of sorts and perhaps his most easily accessible film to date.  With a touch of rousing sports story thrown in for good measure, this is an honest and very moving family drama that is anchored by excellent and fully nuanced performances from the entire cast.  Win Win comes highly recommended.

The Blu-ray includes some deleted scenes and several featurettes.


Win Win DVD Review by Erin V.  

***1/2 (out of 4)

In Win Win, Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a lawyer who after needing the care money, takes guardianship of a senior client named Leo Poplar (Burt Young), who is in the early stages of dementia, and whose only known living relative – his daughter Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) – can’t be found.  After moving Leo to a senior care facility in town, Mike checks up on his old house to discover a teenage boy sitting on the front porch.  It is Kyle (Alex Shaffer) – Leo’s grandson, come to live with his grandfather.  When Mike and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) realize that the boy has nowhere else to go – and didn’t realize his grandfather could not care for him – they take him in while they try to locate his mother.  Meanwhile, Kyle joins up on the highschool wrestling team that Mike coaches, and proves to be a hidden champion.

Newcomer Alex Shaffer (who plays Kyle) holds his own with the likes of Giamatti, and believably playing the young teen, helps to carry the film.  Win Win is a sweet and quiet family drama, that feels believable in its story and performances.  I really liked this one.


Win Win DVD Review By Nicole

*** (out of 4)

Win Win is a charming film about reaching out to those in need.  Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a small town lawyer, dealing mostly with power of attorney cases.  One such case involves a man with mild dementia.  The client, Leo Poplar (Burt Young) is declared incompetent, so Mike decides that the best thing to do is gain custody of him.  Leo’s only adult family member is his daughter, Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) who is in drug rehab.  But Mike discovers that Leo has left behind a teenaged grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer).

Kyle is quiet and somewhat despondent, but otherwise a nice kid.  Mike and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) do the only sensible thing and bring Kyle to stay with them.  Kyle quickly warms up to his foster parents, as well as their small daughters.  But Kyle’s true potential shows up on the high school wrestling team that Mike helps coach.  Wining every match is easy for Kyle, but what will happen when his mother gets out of rehab?

Win Win is a true feel good film.  Reminiscent of The Blind Side, it captures the true value of a family environment.  The acting here is good, never falling into the category of sappy or melodramatic.  The casting is strong too, being one of the few films to use teenage actors, as opposed to twenty-somethings posing as teens.  Despite the ridiculous American R rating for language and brief (but simulated) teenage smoking, Win Win is a great film that anyone 14 and older can enjoy.


Win Win DVD Review By Maureen

*** (out of 4)

The expression ‘win win’ usually implies an equally positive outcome for all parties involved.  Life is not always that straightforward and sometimes when decisions are made for different reasons it raises the question – is this still a win win situation?

Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a small town lawyer who takes on the guardianship of his elderly client, Leo (Burt Young) who is no longer able to live alone.  Motivated mainly by the monthly guardianship cheque, Mike assumes full responsibility for Leo and moves him into a nursing home.  What Mike didn’t anticipate was the unexpected arrival of Leo’s teenage grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer).  Kyle has nowhere to go since his mother (Melenie Lynskey) is in rehab and Grandpa is in a nursing home.  Mike and his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) take Kyle into their home until they can figure out what to do next.  It turns out that he is a good wrestler and Mike and his buddy Terry (Bobby Cannavale) just happen to coach the local high school wrestling team.

Win Win is in many ways similar to The Blind Side.  A realy nice bond forms between Kyle and Mike’s family, as well as Leo.  None of the characters are perfect but they all help each other change in ways that result in a win win situation.  It is the acting here that makes Win Win really nice to watch.  Paul Giamatti gives an excellent performance, as does Alex Shaffer as Kyle.  The bond between them feels real.  The story is never melodramatic and there are several nice comedic moments that keep the film entertaining.  If you missed this one in theatres, then check it out now on DVD.


Win Win DVD Review By Tony

*** (out of 4)

Win Win takes place in the small town of New Providence NJ where Mike Flaherty’s (Paul Giamatti) small law practice can barely support his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) and two little girls. In his spare time, with friends Vig (Jeffrey Tambor) and Terry (Bobby Cannavale), Mike helps coach the losing high school wrestling team. When elderly client Leo (Burt Young) is declared incompetent and his only daughter Cindy can not be found, Mike has himself declared guardian (for $1500 a month), promising the court to support Leo in his own house, but then turns around and (using Leo’s money) puts him in a retirement home. Having run away, Cindy’s teenage son Kyle (Alex Shaffer) turns up on Leo’s doorstep. Mike and Jackie take him in until they can straighten things out. Kyle is taciturn but sweet, getting on well with Leo and as a bonus is a ringer on the wrestling team, bringing them within reach of the state championship. Everything is threatened when Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) gets out of rehab and shows up with a lawyer (Margo Martindale) to challenge the guardianship.

As in his other films The Station Agent and The Visitor, writer/director Thomas McCarthy has filled Win Win with likeable characters doing their best to cope with the challenges of everyday life. Though they may not always make the best decisions, their faults are easily forgiven. The script always rings true in the hands of an excellent ensemble cast of seasoned actors with the welcome addition of Shaffer, who aside from being a state (NJ) champion wrestler had no previous film experience.


Consensus: Anchored by strong performances from an excellent cast that is fronted by Paul Giamatti, writer-director Thomas McCarthy’s Win Win is a moving family drama that plays wonderfully as an entertaining crowd pleaser.  ***1/4 (Out of 4)

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