Paul Giamatti has the face of a basset hound. His eyes match the droopiness in his cheeks, his hair is falling out, his belly extends and if you didn't know he was a successful and gifted actor, you'd think he was just another guy that life kicked around. So if I were to tell you that he was the star of, possibly, THE feel-good movie of 2011, it would be pretty hard to swallow...but it's true.
Win Win is a story of a desperate family sap who finds a way to con an old man, who's played by the wonderful and actually still living Burt Young (the Rocky series, HBO's The Sopranos), but it backfires when he has to take care of his grandson, who's played by a kid named Alex Shaffer in a spectacular film debut. Giamatti's wife is the wonderful Amy Ryan (NBC's The Office, Gone Baby Gone) and rounds out an absolutely perfect cast.
Every moment of this movie builds to something better and, although it's predictable in its formula, is an incredibly heartwarming story. Writer/Director Thomas McCarthy is also an actor. You'd recognize him in movies like 2012, the Meet the Parents series and Michael Clayton. He uses his experience as an actor to really get genuine performances out of his cast. Every word that they utter drips with sincerity and soul.
This isn't a sappy melodrama though. This is a rare and wonderful thing...a dramedy that is perfectly done. I've often said that it's very hard to pull off something that is a fantastic drama and a hilarious comedy at the same time. Most films find that by attempting to do both, they fail to excel at them too. Win Win is a shining example of how it's suppose to be accomplished.
The supporting characters played Jeffry Tambor (The Hangover, Paul) and Bobby Cannavale (FX's Louie, The Other Guys) are not just fluff. They each add some of the best humor to the film but each pump a little drama in as well. They're not two dimensional characters that are only there to make a joke and leave; they have drama and sadness in their lives as well which they need to express and solve.
Win Win dives into some heavy topics. Giamatti's character is rather unlikable when we first meet him because of what he does to this old man. The situation for him and his family seems to get worse and then better and then really bad until they build to a point where a Win Win ending seems impossible. Not only is it accomplished, but so is making it funny all the way through as well.
Win Win (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: A+