“Win Win” focuses on the life of a New Jersey attorney named Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti). Mike has a small practice in a little house shared by his friend, Stephen Vigman (Jeffery Tambor). Their boiler is about to blow, and their toilet stays continually clogged.

Mike is married to Jackie (Amy Ryan), a stay-at-home mom. They have two children and a poor cash flow, but Jackie doesn’t know this because Mike hides it from her.




Enter Leo (Burt Young), an older man beginning to regress mentally and in need of a guardian. Leo wants to stay home, but no family member is available to care for him. He has a daughter, but Mike – now assigned Leo’s case – can’t find her.


When Mike learns that Leo’s trust can pay $1,500 a month for care, he volunteers to the court to take care of Leo. But instead of putting Leo in his own home, Mike puts him in a nursing home and tells Leo the judge ordered it.


On the day of placement, Mike returns to Leo’s house to turn off the water. On the steps sits Kyle (Alex Shaffer), Leo’s grandson. Kyle’s eye is blackened, and we can tell he is “damaged goods.”


Over Jackie’s objections, Mike brings Kyle home to their house.


Mike isn’t just an attorney, but also the wrestling coach for the high school. They haven’t won a match in years. But it turns out Kyle is a wrestler – and quite good.


While all this is going on, Leo’s daughter (Melanie Lynskey) shows up, fresh out of drug rehab – again. Cindy wants Leo to return with her to Ohio. And she wants her son, Kyle, back too.


My father was fond of saying, “Be sure your sins will find you out.” We see this in “Win Win” because what Mike did comes back to haunt him. But there is a distinction here: Mike isn’t a bad person. He is kind and considerate, gracious and loving. But “easy money” wasn’t easy.


The performances in “Win Win” are first rate, including Alex Shaffer’s Kyle. And I have to recognize Thomas McCarthy, the director.


This is his third movie, having previously helmed “The Station Agent” and “The Visitor.” Both are wonderful films and worth your rental dollar. McCarthy is a great talent, and he delivers again in “Win Win.”


Mike Parnell is pastor of Beth Car Baptist Church in Halifax, Va.


MPAA Rating: R for language.


Director: Thomas McCarthy


Writer: Thomas McCarthy


Cast: Paul Giamatti: Mike Flaherty; Amy Ryan: Jackie Flaherty; Jeffery Tambor: Stephen Vigman; Alex Shaffer: Kyle; Burt Young: Leo; Melanie Lynskey: Cindy.


The movie’s website is here.

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