Mar 24, 2011

REVIEW: Win Win (dir. McCarthy)

"Amy Ryan has the least showy role and ends up giving the movie its moral center. At first, for fear of her daughters’ safety, she nuttily tries to lock the door to the basement where Kyle is crashing—only to be brought back from the brink by her husband’s soothing tones. When she learns of Kyle’s terrible life, she announces he’s not going home and that she’s “going to go to Ohio and beat the crap out of his mom.” It not facetious—she really wants to go. Ryan’s voice has an edge that cuts through Giamatti’s fatty resonance and tugs him out of the realm of self-pity. Who wouldn’t want parents so perfectly matched? I guess that’s the win-win." - David Edelstein, New York
Very true. One of the thing I loved about the movie is the slow reveal of Kyle's integrity, together with the unravelling of Giametti's. Ryan stays dead centre while the men move around her. When we first see Kyle he is sat on his grandpa's porch, his peroxide thatch, ferrety and adenoidal mutter lending him the affect of your typical teenage drifter — a lost cause, his mother in rehab. What is revealed is not just his superb wrestling skills, but a keen, low-slung integrity — a straight-arrow sense of right and wrong that sends him across town to look after his grandfather, or out of the back window to avoid his mother. One of the funniest things about this wondrous movie is the neat inversion of the usual inspirational coach cliches. This kid doesn't need any coaching. He's already creaming them on the mat. And his coaches, all three of them, are terrible coaches – X-rated, overexcitable, sick for their lost youth, their pain as visible as chest hair. The cliche "they're getting more out of this than he is," isn't a cliche here. It's quite literally true. This kid has flown into their lives like the proverbial golden goose and it's all they can do to hang on for the ride. I loved this film, loved the way it patiently established the weight pinning these characters to the mat, loved the release it grants them. Wrestling is about right: this film is all about weight, counterweight, staying afloat, wriggling free. But for some plot points that could have done with some punching up, it's pretty much unimprovable, it's uplift as close to the real thing as can be got from American movies right now. It moves mountains, by a few inches. A-


  1. Just saw this tonight. Ryan, yes, excellent, and apparently Alex Schaffer, so great as Kyle, is a total amateur, just some really good wrestler from NJ who answered a casting call. Plus: SO nice to see Giametti toned down like three notches. And how great was Bobby Cannavale in the over-enthusiastic buddy role, as well? AND loved the National song over the end credits, too. A- indeed.

  2. The mere thought of Bobby Cannavale brings a smile to my face, and The National were perfect soundtrack-casting.