Friday, March 11, 2011

Review: It's a Win-Win with Win Win

Win Win is a breath of fresh air – a smart comedy with genuine, authentic performances that really hit the spot. The story of Mike Flaherty, a struggling family lawyer in New Jersey, who spends his evenings coaching high school wrestling. He’s an easy-going family man who’s having trouble keeping his small practice afloat with the current economic downturn. Suffering from stress-related panic attacks and stuck in a money rut, Mike involves himself in an unethical and almost unforgivable scheme that involves becoming the guardian of an elderly man dealing with Dementia. But, even with Mike's questionable actions, eventually you’re on his side. It’s hard to hate him because you can relate to his sincerity in wanting to help his family; he's an underdog that you want to see succeed.

Of course things don’t work out as planned, as Flaherty finds the old man's teenage grandson, Kyle, on his doorstep. Kyle, having grown up with a druggie for a mother, is emotionally vacant - the ramifications of physical and emotional abuse. It's probably not the most realistic of stories, this kid kind of just shows up and happens to be a star wrestler. But then again, maybe it’s not about the believability of the story but the believability of the characters. Mike nurtures and empowers the young boy like a true father would and you can't help but become invested in each character and their journey, because their family dynamic feels genuine.

Breaking down genre boundaries, Win Win is part comedy, and part waterworks-inducing-drama (Yup, I may have shed a tear or two). And it flows between the two genres quite seamlessly with a fantastic cast, made up of  Paul Giamatti (Barney's Version), Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, The Office), Jeffrey Tambor (Arrested Development), Bobby Cannavale (Third Watch) and newcomer, Alex Shaffer.  I have to say the best part of Win Win was Cannavale. Who knew, back when he was on Third Watch, that he was this funny! His comedic timing and delivery was spot on, and the chemistry between the entire cast, especially Cannavale and Tambor, was almost perfection.

With such a quiet on-screen presence, you immediately fall for Amy Ryan as the morally-centered mom. The epitome of a mama bear, she’s naturally apprehensive about having a cigarette-smoking, ‘Eminem’-looking, 16-year old stranger in her home. This changes when we see that Kyle is surprisingly timid and kind, despite the bleached blond hair and all the tattoos. Speaking of Kyle, what a fresh change - you could tell right away that Shaffer's not an experienced actor. He doesn't so much as act, he just is the damaged teen he portrays, which makes his delivery natural and heartfelt, as it should be. It's definitely a win-win for this one.

Win Win hits theatres March 18th.

No comments:

Post a Comment