Film Review: WIN WIN

Written and Directed by Tom McCarthy
Starring; Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Carnavale, Alex Shaffer, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey

I saw this movie at my local art house, elbowed in between two foreign language films. This seemed strange to me because it’s exactly the sort of movie you used to find everywhere. Did Hoosiers play at arthouses? How about Terms of Endearment?

Paul Giamatti is enough of a star that he should draw something of a crowd, but I think films that cannot attract teenagers in droves or do not come out in the six weeks before Christmas are consigned to smaller venues. It’s very possible you will only be able to see this on DVD if you don’t live in a major market. It’s a shame because it is a nice little movie I think most people would enjoy.

PLOT: Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) earns a mediocre living as a lawyer in a small town. More and more, he can’t make ends meet. He gets more satisfaction as a wrestling coach at the local high school than from practicing law. He has a good marriage (Amy Ryan, in a ordinary role that wastes her gifts) and nice kids.

An opportunity comes along to supplement Flaherty’s income. An elderly man (Young) depends on him to see to his care and the court agrees to this arrangement. His method of providing this care is at odds with his client’s request. When his client’s grandson (Shaffer) comes to visit, Flaherty takes him in, for various reasons, not all of them altruistic. So in Flaherty, we have a complicated character although the story is content to end the dilemma predictably. Lynskey plays the grandson’s troublesome mother, who almost upends our happy ending. Carnivale is especially good as his pal, Terry, and Jeffrey Tambor does his usual dour act.

McCarthy’s last two films were two of my favorites: THE STATION AGENT (2003) and THE VISITOR (2007). This is not quite up to their high standard. They were quirkier, less predictable. But this is a worthy follow-up. Recommended.


Patti Abbott writes crime fiction short stories. She hosts a look at Forgotten Books every Friday with readers, writers and reviewers at She hopes you’ll join in.