This review was first run - in slightly shorter form – during the Melbourne International Film Festival. Win Win is now screening nationally.
When you see the Fox Searchlight logo before a film, you know what you’re getting yourself into. For some people, it’s a portent as ominous as a black cat straddling a rabid red-eyed dog as it races under a ladder and into a nearby mirror shop; those dual spotlights may as well be a giant sign that says: “here be quirky”. Personally, it makes my heart go all-a-flutter. What can I say? I likes me some good-natured quirk.
Beyond that signature trait of a Fox Searchlight production, I find their most notable films (Juno, Sideways, 500 Days of Summer) have that element of humanity missing from so many other features. Thomas McCarthy‘s Win Win is no different. Paul Giamatti stars as a New Jersey lawyer fallen on hard times; he’s having trouble making ends meet, and the high school wrestling team he coaches finds themselves staring at the ceiling more often than [insert public figure currently embroiled in sex scandal].
To earn some extra coin, he agrees to be the legal guardian of an elderly client with early onset dementia (Burt Young), and then finds himself also looking after his bleach-blonde grandson (Alex Schaffer). Never a burden, the surprisingly level-headed kid becomes the star of the wrestling team … until his druggie mum (Melanie Lynskey) re-enters the picture. Win Win is a warm, wonderful comedy, smartly written, full of great performances (particularly from supporting superstars Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor) and bad haircuts (yeah, a lot of the characters have bad haircuts).
The ending – which is subtle, but speaks volumes – has lingered longer in my memory than the finales of most films I’ve seen this year. I’ll attribute that to the tender touch of McCarthy. An actor in his own right, much of his artistic success can be chalked up to his ability to connect with his on-screen thespians. His talent is deeper than that though. He knows how to connect with people, which I wish wasn’t a rare trait in Hollywood, but it is.
Win Win is now showing in Australian cinemas.