Posted: 05/10/2011


Win Win

by Elaine Hegwood Bowen

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I didn’t see The Blind Side, but the name of that movie has been dropped in relation to a movie that’s out called Win Win. Now this is another indie film that focuses on a family that takes a socially alienated 16-year-old boy who is a stellar wrestler into its home. The father, Mike played by Paul Giamatti, comes in contact with the boy’s granddad Leo, played by Burt Young.

Leo is suffering from Alzheimer’s and the state is ready to commit him to senior housing. Mike is an attorney who represents the elderly population, and he decides to volunteer to be Leo’s guardian, telling the judge that he will take care of him. There is no one else to take care of Leo, since his daughter is a drug addict. But Mike takes the $1500 monthly stipend that he’s paid for caring for Leo and still places him in senior housing. He does this because his practice is suffering, as well, and he could use the extra money.

Leo doesn’t like being in senior housing, but he has no choice. As the movie unfolds, Leo’s grandson, Kyle, runs away from home and comes to Providence, Rhode Island, to where his grandfather lives in an effort to see him. He discovers that Leo is no longer in his home, but he’s dead set against going back home to Ohio, because his mother is on drugs. He and his mother don’t have much of a relationship, and Mike and his wife and young daughter don’t have much choice but to invite Kyle into their home, at least for the meanwhile. Mike’s wife isn’t too pleased with the idea, because they have a young daughter, until she gets a feeling that Kyle’s mother is a total douche bag, drug fiend, absentee mother.

Once Mike discovers that Kyle, played by Alex Shaffer, is a wrestling champ, he signs him up for school and tries to use him to help the team that he coaches win the next championship.
Kyle nurtures a relationship with Leo, even in the confines of the senior home, and he finally opens and is less reserved. Right in the midst of this, the drug addict mother shows up, trying to cash in on her father’s estate. After some wrangling around and lies discovered, Mike not only has a winning wrestling team but also has the good mind to return Leo back to his home, where he belongs.

Burt Young is great in this movie, a bit disheveled and out of sorts, just as any senior his age would be. Paul Giamatti and Alex Shaffer are also great in an independent film about one family taking in a wayward youth. And even though it’s centered on wrestling, the movie isn’t patronizing in the way that I believe The Blind Side was (based on movie trailers). Win Win is in theaters now.

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago.

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