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The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

The Independent Voice of Southern Methodist University Since 1915

The Daily Campus

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Morgan Shiver, Contributor • June 20, 2024
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‘Win Win’ is cleverly written, emotionally engaging film that appeals to a broad audience

%E2%80%9CWin+Win%E2%80%9D+stars+Paul+Gimatti+and+Alex+Shaffer+%28Left+to+right%2C+shown+above%29+in+a+scene+from+the+film.+%E2%80%9CWin+Win%E2%80%9D+is+playing+in+theatres+nationwide.+
Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight
“Win Win” stars Paul Gimatti and Alex Shaffer (Left to right, shown above) in a scene from the film. “Win Win” is playing in theatres nationwide.

“Win Win” stars Paul Gimatti and Alex Shaffer (Left to right, shown above) in a scene from the film. “Win Win” is playing in theatres nationwide. (Photo Courtesy of Fox Searchlight)

Tom McCarthy always liked to look back at his somewhat meager high school wrestling career and laugh. Describing it as a “hobby that was painful,” McCarthy never once thought a movie would stem from it. However, after meeting with high school friend Joe Tiboni, the two old friends got together, wrote a script, and from there, “Win Win” was born.

The film, which features Paul Giamatti playing lead Mike Flaherty, follows a suburban lawyer as he tries to make ends meet with a struggling legal practice and a family.

An answer to all of Mike’s worries comes when one of his clients, Leo Poplar, an old, wealthy man, is deemed by the state as mentally unable to take care of himself, and thus needs a guardian. Looking for the money that goes along with the title, Flaherty takes over Mr. Poplar’s guardianship.

Further into Leo’s guardianship, Poplar’s estranged grandson comes to visit his grandfather after running away from home. With no family in the state, and seemingly no home to stay at, Mike takes Leo’s grandson Luke, played by first time actor and state-champion wrestler, Alex Shaffer, under his wing.

When Giamatti’s character is not being the typical daytime lawyer, he coaches the local high school’s wrestling team at night. When Mike discovers that his unexpected houseguest has an even more unexpected talent in wrestling, Flaherty’s measly team takes a turn for the better.

“Luke is an incredibly gifted athlete,” McCarthy, the film’s director and writer, said. “When I wrestled in high school, it was only two hours after school, these kids now train after school, before school, during breaks, they make it their lives.”

As an actor on the side, McCarthy wrote “Win Win” while filming the apocalypse thriller “2012.”

“Being a part-time actor is pretty conducive to writing,” McCarthy said. “A movie like ‘2012′ took a long time to film, so I had a lot of free time to write.”

Running 106 minutes, “Win Win” is the year’s first family film that showcases a cunningly real family and the even more real struggles that a typical family may encounter. With Giamatti’s character practically embezzling money and thus breaking the law, the audience can’t help but to rationalize with his character and somehow justify his shady ways.

“We see in Paul, what we see in ourselves,” McCarthy said. “Paul has a wonderful way of portraying Mike as a character. Mike is essentially a pretty decent guy who goes to church, has a family, and actually has a job that makes a difference. He has all of these good things going for him, but he makes one bad call.”

Giamatti’s silver-screen family is complimented by his wife, “The Office’s” Amy Ryan. Ryan’s role as Jackie Flaherty is genuine, funny, and perhaps the most heartwarming of the film. Using her comedic timing to her advantage, Ryan wins over viewers as she tries to win over her stubborn houseguest, Luke.

Playing Luke, the quiet, but surprisingly intelligent superstar wrestler, is Alex Shaffer. As a wrestler himself, Shafer impresses on the set of “Win Win” as his wrestling moves are believable and as far as his acting goes, it’s just as organic. Being cast as an angsty teen can sometimes be taken too far by actors, but Shaffer allows his audience to progressively peel back his layers as the film goes on. Crowned a state champion in New Jersey just four days after finishing “Win Win,” Shaffer’s talents come both on and off the mat.

As a whole, “Win Win” is a cleverly written, emotionally engaging film that appeals to a broad audience. Even though the “R” rating is a tad intimidating to younger audiences, parents should not hesitate to take their children (10 and up) to see “Win Win,” as it carries a storyline about family that many films severely lack.

“Win Win” is playing in theatres nationwide.

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