Sunday, October 23, 2011

Movie Recommendation: Win Win

Eric and I snagged Win Win from a Redbox recently, and I can happily suggest it as a beautifully crafted story with well written characters, perfect pacing and a thoughtful conclusion. (Also, it stars Paul Giamatti, one of those actors who comes with a neon light above his head blinking "See this film! I'm in it, so it's probably good!")

Win Win tells the story of Mike, a lawyer specializing in elder care law with a practice that is slowly and painfully sinking into the red. In desperation, he unethically takes on wealthy client Leo's guardianship so he can collect an extra $1500 commission each month.

This one act of dubious morality sets in motion a series of events that leads Leo's troubled grandson Kyle to stay with Mike and his family. Kyle is headstrong teenager who has run away from a mother struggling through a drug treatment program. He is sixteen but has peroxided blonde hair, bold tattoos etched across his back and a serious cigarette habit. Though he is respectful and appreciative to Mike and his family, it's clear that he will do exactly as he pleases.

Mike spends his free time volunteering as a high school wrestling coach. Their team is limp and uninspired, just like everything else in Mike's life, so when Kyle shows an interest in training with the team, Mike doesn't expect much. It quickly becomes clear that Kyle is a very talented, powerful wrestler. Suddenly Mike (and his fellow coaches) have something to be excited about.

Watching this kid dominate all comers makes these grown men feel powerful by proxy. It's a moment where every single one of the characters need the encouragement. Mike is broke and tired out by middle age and the monotony of his life. Co-coach Stephen just needs an escape from his wife and rude teen aged step-son. Mike's best friend Terry needs something to obsess about besides his ex-wife's affair with the contractor of the massive dream home he's just lost in their divorce. And Kyle needs a second chance and redemption in the aftermath of his mother's addiction and his own sketchy past.

This film did all the things I enjoy most in movies. It told a story that felt believable by showing me finely drawn characters and the way their motivations and personalities tangled their lives together to move the plot forward. Nothing felt rushed or wasted and there were great performances from even the supporting characters.

Have you watched anything great lately?

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