“I laughed, I cried”. More often than not, the “laughing” is at myself for being suckered into believing Hollywood’s latest offering would be worth the two and a half hours of my life I’d not be getting back. The “crying” usually follows the realization that I’ve just spent a third of my kid’s college savings on tickets and overpriced stale popcorn. Last night that changed. I have the genius of Paul Giamatti and his new movie Win Win to thank.
You may not recognize the Oscar nominee’s name, but I doubt you can say the same about his face. Giamatti’s face is a canvas, he uses it to paint a picture that pulls you into the heart and soul of every character he plays. From the complicated, yet oddly lovable, Harvey Pekar in American Splendor to the lonely hero, Cleveland, in M. Knight Shyamalan’s disappointing Lady In The Water Giamatti’s genius can make a bad move bearable and a good movie great (think Cinderella Man). He’s done it again with Win Win. (and a little help from his friends Jeffery Tambor, Amy Ryan and Bobby Cannavale <–swoon)
I’ll be honest, this movie had me at the mat. I come from a family that boasts generations of champion wrestlers. Vision Quest made such an impact on the teenage me that my son’s are lucky not to be named Louden and Swain. Yes, seriously. As any one who knows me can tell you, if you need me any given Saturday between October and April, you’ll likely find me at one of my 17 year old son’s matches. So when I caught the teen star -wrestler first actor by chance- Alex Shaffer on a local DC morning show I reached out to Fox-Searchlight to find out when the movie would be in my area. I wasn’t going to miss this, after all it takes Hollywood about 25 years to come out with a new wrestling flick.
Our entire wrestling team was invited to preview the movie. (pause for bragging parent moment, Old Mill Wrestling boasts no less than two individual state champs. One of them, Ron Vaughters, is a THREE TIME repeat champ! My son is a Captain). We were on that like a pin in the first period!
Win Win isn’t really a wrestling movie. Though judging by the reactions of the team and coaches the film makers had, “all the right moves”. Wrestling plays a key role in the story line, but the movie is more about defining what family is, coming to terms with your faults, owning the choices you make and recognizing who and what is truly important to you. Sounds heavy, huh? The concept may be but the film isn’t. It earned it’s “R” rating for a peppering of colorful terms (heard around my house daily) and a momentary -hysterical- flashing of middle aged male tail. I’d have no reservations about taking my 12 year old and even my precocious 6 year old to see this movie. In all honesty it didn’t take long for Win Win to have me laughing and crying for all the right reasons.
This movie is a win for movie goers starved for a quality film that never gets preachy, cliched, slow or melodramatic. Much like the popcorn, the laughs weren’t cheap either. The comedy in the film is well placed and truly funny. I will be making it my personal mission* to get Paul Giamatti his Oscar for this -as Kyle, Mike and the team would say- “Whatever the fuck it takes!”
*I hold no sway with the Academy accept to say they will be down one of their 50 billion or so viewers if Paul Giamatti doesn’t win Best Actor!