Win Win tells the story of Mike, who becomes the legal guardian of Leo a senile old man. A couple of days later, his grandson shows up and through circumstance ends up living with Mike and his wife, Jackie. From there the story features bonding and the typical lines about betrayed trust.
It's moving without being schmaltzy, it's funny without telling jokes, and the characters have definite chemistry. These traits are often the signs of a great movie. But Win Win never edges itself into greatness. It's a better-than-some independent dramedy that has a good cast and a good script, but all the moving parts have been done elsewhere; the big fall out, the kid with the abusive mother, people coming together over sports. It's formula, sure. But a formula is a formula for a reason, and in the case of Win Win, it has it down and happily works inside the margins.
But here's my problem. I believe a movie theater is a holy place where you watch feats and theatrics that are so much larger than life that a big screen is practically required to contain everything. And we pay a premium for these seats and this screen and the 9 dollar popcorn.
With pay cable and HD-TV, slice-of-life drama has taken to the long form, and I like it there. Don't get me wrong, I liked the superb cast that featured Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and Jeffery Tambor. I liked the pacing, and I even liked the kid. Win Win, ultimately, is hard to quantify.
It's certainly greater than the sum of its parts, and that's interesting, because all of the parts come from Director Tom McCarthy, who has script, story, and director credit, and also says the character of Mike has roots in a real person. It was a movie that told a pretty realistic story about real people doing real things. But is a movie about “real things” worth 12.50, twenty minutes of pre-previews, and shamefully corny “turn off your cell phone” advertisements?
In the case of Win Win, I think so.