I had heard mutterings about Win Win coming out of Sundance and the words ‘brilliant’ and ‘wonderful’ seemed to be getting a lot of work. So it was with trepidation that I went to the cinema, given the lukewarm reception that our media publications had greeted Tom McCarthy’s follow up to The Station Agent with. For me the truth lies somewhere in between the two poles. Win Win is too well crafted, balanced and situated on the safe side of that boundary to be exceptional but it is also an emotionally true and extremely satisfying indie drama.
Paul Giamatti must be frustrated by his career. Sure, he’s been nominated for an Academy Award but that was for one of his worse films, Cinderella Man. He must be frustrated that he entered the scene at the same time as Philip Seymour Hoffman who seems to have taken the weightier roles away from him, especially as there as so few good ones being written in Hollywood for guys like Giamatti and PSH. Whatever the frustration Giamatti is, once again, excellent here bringing a believability and likability to the character that is becoming rare in modern cinema. His character Mike is like a wised up, real life version of Ed Helms’ character from Cedar Rapids. This is all heart, no caricature.
The rest of the cast do a good job. Jeffrey Tambor is underused (the man is plain funny, use him!) but Bobby Carnivale and newcomer Alex Shaffer give good accounts of themselves. Amy Ryan might well be the female Paul Giamatti but she is also excellent here. In fact the whole thing is so well put together that it suffers a little bit from not having the ‘rough around the edges’ of the very best indie films. It’s a hard complaint to level at a film which is human and funny (although not very) but someone has to do it.
Wonderfully realised this is lightweight indie drama at it’s best. Just plain win.