You’ve probably already seen one wrestling film that isn’t really about wrestling in the last couple of years. For most people that’s quite enough, right? There are plenty of other ‘sports’ (inverted commas intended) that they could make fine movies about, so I’m not sure why there is a fixation on wrestling at the moment. After all, the world is crying out for the Aronofsky-directed ‘The Cricketer’, starring Christian Bale as the down-and-out batsman who everyone thinks is past it but then he meets a woman and falls in love and then his daughter appears and more things happen and Oscars ensue. Anyway the question is, do you really want to see another wrestling film that isn’t really about wrestling? Probably not, but the inescapable fact (potentially just my opinion) is that everything Paul Giamatti touches is gold, so unfortunately you should probably watch this as well.
Paul Giamatti is easily one of my favourite actors. A little like a more indie version of Nic Cage, he has two speeds – down-and-out and downer-and-outer. One of the things I like about him is that he is always on the brink of becoming a household name, but never quite there. I’d like to think this is by design; aside from his recent appearance in The Hangover 2, he has a tendency to stick to relatively obscure roles. In Win Win he plays Mike Flaherty; a down-and-out lawyer struggling to hold everything together. Flaherty is an unkempt, bumbling, wreck of a man and it’s impossible not to root for him.
Win Win is the story of Mike Flaherty’s efforts to carry his family through a financial crisis and his attempts to minimise the collateral damage from the mistakes he makes as a result. Through a series of coincidences (doesn’t that always happen in the movies?), he meets a teenager who also happens to be a prodigy wrestler. This is convenient, as Flaherty is the coach of a struggling wrestling team. Have you spotted the theme of ‘struggle’ yet? In fairness, there’s nothing entirely original here but the film pulls everything off so well that it doesn’t matter. It’s perfectly balanced, always managing to hold itself back from being overly sentimental. The supporting cast is excellent – Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor provide a genuinely hilarious distraction from the underlying despair and the 16-year-old wrestler Alex Shaffer plays the part of a 16-year-old wrestler perfectly. I’m being unfair, he really is good and somehow manages to turn a sullen, disinterested kid into an endearing, unique character.
Win Win isn’t groundbreaking, so if you are looking for something to change your life, you should probably look elsewhere. Perhaps the dance-movie revolution that is Honey 2 will do it for you. There’s no dancing in Win Win which may or may not be its greatest flaw, and this will clearly be what makes or breaks the movie come award season. If you care not for dancing though, you’ll be pleased enough. Also, The National feature on the soundtrack. If that doesn’t sell it, well, I’m out of ideas.