May 15, 2011


"... If that sounds like the kind of Inspirational Coach movie that Hollywood trots out every year to keep Dennis Quaid in work, you are reckoning without the warm, flinty idiosyncrasy of McCarthy’s writing, and the bruised flesh tones of the film’s performances: not just from Giamatti, dog-paddling like crazy to keep his law practice afloat, but also from Amy Ryan as his Bon Jovi-loving wife and Bobby Cannavale as the best friend who attaches himself to the wrestling team to escape his disintegrating marriage. We hear indie comedies praised all the time for extracting laughs from dark material, but rarely has the uplifting and the downbeat been as beautifully married as they are here. Shot in his childhood home of New Providence, New Jersey, the film started life as a conversation between McCarthy and an old friend, Joe Tiboni, who used to be on the high school wrestling team with him. They started reminiscing and McCarthy thought: there’s a movie in this, and asked Tiboni to help him write it. “Now if Joe and I weren’t as close as we were I might look at him and go 'what’s interesting there?’. Because I know him, and I love him, I’m totally invested in him. If I look at him as this middle-class lawyer guy who never left his home town, then who cares? It has to come back to character.” It’s as close to a vision statement as you’ll get from McCarthy who, in his conversation as much as in his films, steers clear of grand pronouncements in favour of the nuts-and-bolts of his craft. To wit: the art of making fictional people matter to an audience as much as to their closest friends. It’s how he is in person, chatting as if picking up an old conversation. It’s also the theme of his films, which draw disparate strangers into proximity: the unlikely friendship between a dwarf, a mother in mourning and a hot dog vendor in The Station Agent; between an economics professor and his Senegalese squatters in The Visitor, or between a geriatric, a scout and a talking dog in Up" — from my interview with Tom McCarthy in The Daily Telegraph

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