Reel Matt

This blog started as my movie marathon — watching a movie a day for a whole year — and has continued as a place for me to write reviews about movies, TV, and various other items.



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Win Win

Film #295


A struggling lawyer and volunteer wrestling coach’s chicanery comes back to haunt him when the teenage grandson of the client he’s double-crossed comes into his life.

Year 1, Day 302

BEFORE: Win Win is able to sneak in for, thankfully, another continued day in the movie marathon. Scheduling is still very messed up and will probably continue to be so for the next two weeks (again, more on that in the coming days), but for now, I get to watch another Paul Giamatti film (he had a minor role in The Truman Show yesterday).

AFTER: Sometimes you just like a film and it’s hard to explain why. The best way to describe it is it just feels right, like everything is working and entertaining. Win Win is one of those films that you like instinctively and I’m going to try and verbalize why. Much easier to verbalize is why the film just misses the mark.

Besides instinctively knowing something is good (or bad) what can you say about it. After all, there must be something that draws you to the film. This might be similar to the frame problem in robot ethics (yeah, that’s how you know finals are taking a toll on me - I cite them in my movie reviews) which is this: how do you differentiate between a tree and a bush. Both have trunks and have leaves so how are they different. Well one is obviously taller than the other but at what point does a bush become a tree? The answer is a combination of things that give you an instinctive reaction to go, “Oh, that’s a tree.” But I digress. Win Win I view in a similar way. There are a bunch of elements that singled out and paired up with different kinds could make a bad movie. For example, there are many times the dialogue seems repetitive and forceful - you can tell it’s written out and don’t believe the actor is saying it naturally. Case in point: the amount of times they say “shit”. It is funny at first (especially when you hear a six year old say it and the parents look disapprovingly at each other) but after the third or fourth time it isn’t. However by that time, something that wasn’t so good in the beginning (like the story - very slow setup) has grown and become catchy. What I’m trying to say here is this: Win Win fluctuates between brilliance and just an average job but the overall takeaway is a positive one. The good far outweighs the bad here.

Except in one key area and that is characterization. Some characters like Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), his wife Jackie (Amy Ryan), and especially Kyle (Alex Shaffer) are well developed and hold their ground. But there are also a handful of characters who not only seem to have no point in being there, but their very presence detracts from the focus of the scene and makes it less entertaining. The two big ones are Terry (Bobby Cannavale) whose side story serves almost zero purpose for the main story, and Stephen (Jeffrey Tambor), who while not nearly as bad as Terry’s character, fades out by the halfway point leaving you questioning where he went and why he was really involved in the first place.

Win Win was yet another great film that helped me sit back and relax on the homestretch of finals week. While much of my attraction to this film is just based on a gut-based instinct that’s hard to put into tangible reasons, I can say that this film will make you laugh (many times), make you think, and make you feel - something that all films cannot do. The characters are a bit on the iffy side but another great addition to the list.

RATING: 4 out of 5