No one plays the average down and out American man better than Paul Giamatti. In Win Win, written and directed by Thomas McCarthy, he is at the top of his game. While struggling to keep his law practice and suburban family life afloat, Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) is drowning in his obligation to be a strong (or maybe just average) provider, husband, and father. In a desperate attempt to avoid financial ruin, Flaherty makes moral compromises that challenge us to think about the sacrifices we make for family – especially the sacrifices that may compromise our integrity.
But this is more than a film about the intricacies of taking – or not taking – the moral high road. This is a film about the moments of relationship that save us from the otherwise soul-decaying stress of daily life and modern responsibilities. As a part time, and ultimately unsuccessful wrestling coach, Flaherty finds solace in his ability to inspire his notoriously poor performing team to harness their power on the wrestling mat. As he mentors and then eventually takes in run-away teen Kyle (Alex Shaffer), a relationship unfolds that inspires us to examine the relationships in our own lives: why we connect with the people we do, or maybe not why we connect, but that we connect at all, and just how much we need that.
In our American culture where stress and the overwhelming pressure to perform is the norm, Win Win highlights that we may not be able to avoid stress, and we probably won’t always handle it well, but we can, however, find some consolation and purpose in authentic relationships.
[As a reminder that there are many ways to "see" a film, check out a previous rednow writeup that explores Win Win from a slightly different perspective, here.]