This one presents no real stretch for Giamatti, though he still gives a fine performance as Mike Flaherty, an attorney stressed out that his New Jersey business is quietly going under. To make ends meet he sneakily cheats a senile old man (Young) out of living in his house by putting him in retirement care, pocketing a monthly commission by stating he is the old man's carer.
The man's teen grandson Kyle (Shaffer) soon turns up and a bond is forged between the two disparate individuals, middle-aged man hiding his worry, troubled adolescent masking his anger. It helps that Mike is a wrestling coach and Kyle is remarkably skilled in the sport. He brings the local team success in competitions but then his wayward mother (Lynskey) shows up, upsetting the apple cart and causing consternation.
Giamatti's schlub-like countenance anchors the tale well and the supporting cast all give first rate performances. Amy Ryan is convincingly vulnerable as Giamatti's wife, coming to terms with the interloper to her family. Shaffer is sly and sharp at delineating his character's pent up hostility and hurt feelings. Bobby Cannavale is a delight as Giamatti's good pal, always trying to make the best of every situation while Jeffrey Tambor is a reliable grump as a fellow coach, relentlessly sticking to the rules.
But like McCarthy's two previous directorial forays, The Station Agent and The Visitor, Win Win is an intelligent and articulate affair that just misses the mark. Despite the talent in front of and behind the camera – the small town setting is agreeably conjured and the actors are all perfectly convincing – it somehow fails to score a bullseye. Perhaps it's because it takes a fair while to get going, it never completely draws you in and one is never wholly involved in the characters' plight. It's a worthy effort though, very appealing and amusing in spots, but it could do with a little more bite. Likeable but unmoving.
EXTRAS ★★★ Two deleted scenes; Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni discuss Win Win (6:15); David Thompson at Sundance 2011 (2:29); In Conversation With Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti at Sundance 2011 (2:27); Family (2:25); a music video for Think You Can Wait, by The National (4:36); and the theatrical trailer.