(Tom McCarthy, 2011)
Win Win is a recession-era comedy drama stripped of any rage or passion about the times which give the film its setting. It focuses on Paul Giamatti's small town New Jersey lawyer as he struggles to keep his head above water financially, running his struggling business and providing for his family, while coaching a High School Wrestling team in his spare time. Everything is complicated by the arrival into his life of the teenage Grandson of an elderly client who happens to be a talented wrestler.
The neatness of that premise is reflected in more or less every aspect of the film. It is a safe, careful drama with some comedy, never overly ambitious, only mildly funny, scrupulously modest in its aims and achievements. McCarthy crafts believable, warmly likeable characters and his fine cast bring them nicely to life, with Giamatti and Amy Ryan (as his wife) as dependably solid as ever. One key role is miscast however; as the teen Wrestler, Alex Schaffer is adequate in the early, monosyllabic scenes, but once required to tackle more dialogue his work suffers. He is good in the wrestling scenes, which work well enough.
But then everything works, while nothing works brilliantly, and this is the films problem. McCarthy is competent as a visual director, solid as a storyteller, but there is not one transcendent moment in this film, no belly laughs or truly moving dramatic scenes, no truths captured, no beauty on display. His compositions are workmanlike, the lightng and colours flat and anonymous, the soundtrack virtually sublimnal (the use of the National over the end credits may in fact be the highlight of the film). It is pedestrian, utterly predictable in its middlebrow tastefulness. Never a struggle and a mildly enjoyable experience, Win Win represents a slightly dispiriting trend within American Indie cinema; the rise of the middl of the road Adult-oriented comedy-drama.