Win Win, Paul Giamatti

Win Win: A Fantastic Movie Starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan

win win, paul giamattiI saw ‘Win Win’ at the State Theatre in downtown Traverse City today, and wow, what a fantastic movie. I tried to think of an adjective that surpasses fantastic and finally settled on “superlative.” ‘Win Win’ is a superlative movie — except you wouldn’t know it by the subject matter. I came home and tried explaining what it was about to my husband. It went something like this:

“Well, it’s a really great movie about this guy who’s an attorney, but his life sort of sucks. His practice is about to go under and his furnace is dying and he needs money, so he ends up being the guardian of one of his older clients who’s suffering with dementia. See, then the attorney can get the extra $1500 a month in guardianship fees. But the older guy’s grandson shows up in town and turns out to be this fantastic wrestler, so he starts wrestling on the team for the local high school, which the attorney coaches. They need to start winning some matches to save face, and… ”

See? It doesn’t sound like much, does it? But it’s one of those small films that scores raves at all the film festivals and goes on to win an Oscar.

I can’t think of a better character actor right now than Paul Giamatti. I call him a “character actor” because he doesn’t have the handsome Hollywood good looks of a leading man, but yet, he gives it everything he’s got, no matter what the role is. And he really does play such great characters — some of the best in recent cinema history.

Amy Ryan plays his wife in the movie, and she’s one of my favorite actors on the planet, not only because she’s a skillful actor, but she seems like the kind of person you could sit down and have a beer with.

Win Win, Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer

But the person who really makes ‘Win Win’ is Alex Shaffer, who plays the wrestler-kid Kyle. I figured he must have a long list of movie and TV credits because he’s such a natural as the sullen kid with a shattered family life who ends up blazing brightly as a teenage wrestler. But no, this is his very first role, and I can’t wait to see what he does next.

Go see ‘Win Win’ at the first opportunity, because it’ll make you smile and give you hope that people really can do the right thing, even when all the forces are working against them.

‘Win Win’ is rated R for language; directed by Thomas McCarthy; in theaters March 18, 2011; 106 min.; also stars Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, and Melanie Lynskey; official ‘Win Win’ site; Fox Searchlight on Facebook and Twitter.

Images: Fox Searchlight






  1. Casey Avatar

    Reading your review while I’m watching Sideways… what synchronicity! I’m a huge Giamatti fan, so I can’t wait to see this.

  2. The Writer's [Inner] Journey Avatar

    Paul Giamatti’s in it? I want to see it!

  3. Jennifer Willis Avatar

    Thanks for this review, Jane! I’d been curious about this movie for a while, but like you’ve said, the synopsis seems a bit bland. I appreciate your giving more insight into why this movie has been lauded — and how sometimes real meaning can be found in the more mundane details. 🙂

  4. Melanie Avatar

    Looks like, well, a WINNER! I loved Amy Ryan in The Wire. She’s got such an honest reality to her performances. Melanie Lynskey is a Kiwi, of course, so gotta love her and she has a range far beyond her character in Two and a Half Men. Paul Giamatti’s performances are always worth the price of admission. I’ll be there, whenever we manage to get this one Down Under.

  5. sarah henry Avatar

    This is the second rave review I’ve read for this film. On my list.

  6. Alexandra Avatar

    Unlike many, I really disliked Sideways, and, despite Paul G. doing a good job in the Adams documentary, I don’t like him as an actor, in modern times, anyway, so I’m not taking your recommendation on this one.

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