Hollywood would like to convince us that stories fit into nice, neat little genre boxes. There are comedies. There are dramas. They want to lead us like sheep into theaters, sell us the overpriced concession and entertain us without challenging us think — because we might think twice about these simple choices and upset the easy win-win scenario (they make money, while we take what’s presented to us).
Tom McCarthy, the director of The Station Agent and The Visitor, screws with the game plan in his latest film, Win Win, tweaking the situation by blurring the genre lines, offering smartly observed humor and real-world economic and family dynamics beyond the cookie-cutter situation comedy mold.
Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), a struggling private practice attorney who also coaches a losing high school wrestling team, agrees to become the legal guardian of an elderly client (Burt Young) in order to manage the man’s monthly stipend and stumbles into a larger ethical quandary when his client’s grandson (Alex Shaffer) and mother (Melanie Lynskey) appear with designs of their own.
The moral and ethical dilemmas produce startling moments of honest laughs and darker emotions, and as the narrative unfolds the film forces the audience to consider the choices we would make in the same compromised situations. But by holding the mirror up before us, McCarthy creates the perfect Win Win; a marriage of genres that encourages us to think while thoroughly engaged in the business of entertaining us. Grade: A-