Perhaps what makes Win Win such a satisfying film is how recognizable and predictable it seems, but it is unlike any suburban drama in recent memory. Often times filmmakers focus on the angst and discontent of suburbia, the hidden emotional problems that occupy the seemingly happy upper-middle class. But, Thomas McCarthy crafts a compelling and emotionally engaging story with Win Win by showing characters that, at a base level, are happy and know how lucky they are, yet strive to solve the basic ‘everyday’ problems that make their lives complicated. Of course, the method Paul Giamatti decides to make a little extra money so he and his wife (a charming Amy Ryan) can scrape by their suburban expenses is initially outlandish – become legal guardian of an elderly client – but the events that follow seem plausible because Giamatti and Ryan are presented as reasonable, generally good people trying to do the ‘right thing’: they take care of a runaway whose grandfather Giamatti has become responsible for. Then, the family drama fuses with sports as the runaway, Alex (played by a deadpan Alex Shaffe), finds a new start with Giamatti/Ryan and a return to high-school wrestling. Though, what makes Win Win shine is the acting: strong performances from Giamatti, Ryan, and Shaffe bring the characters of Win Win to life while hilarious support from Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor round out McCarthy’s depiction of suburban life.
Bottom Line: A sweet, funny, touching film that is well worth seeing (that coming from a guy who usually does not get down with “sweet, funny, touching” films). McCarthy’s take on suburbia is refreshing and filled with compelling characters, perhaps most surprisingly Giamatti as a happy person.