A couple of nights ago, I attended a pre-screening and Q&A for the upcoming film Win Win. The movie stars Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, and Melanie Lynskey, and is summarized by Fox Searchlight Pictures as follows:
Disheartened attorney Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach, stumbles across a star athlete through some questionable business dealings while trying to support his family. Just as it looks like he will get a double payday, the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything.Although the plot synopsis sounds rather dry and uninteresting, the film is phenomenal. Right off the bat, you really care for Giamatti's character. He is out of shape, in financial trouble, but tries to do right by his family and his business. You also care a lot for the teenage lead Kyle--he is the victim of a drug-addicted mother and her abusive boyfriend. The story of Win Win is uplifting, well-crafted, and makes you feel a range of emotions, from fear and love and hate to sadness and joy. And that's what a good story should do. Watch the trailer below:
After seeing the film, we were treated to a wonderful Q&A with director Tom McCarthy and the film's co-star Alex Shaffer. Tom McCarthy, as you probably know, is the co-writer of Pixar's Up along with Pete Docter and Bob Petersen.
Tom discussed parts of his experience with Pixar during the Q&A which I found very interesting. Apparently, Mr. McCarthy was contacted by Pete Docter to help on Up's story because Docter liked McCarthy's film The Station Agent.
Another interesting parallel that I drew between the story of Win Win and Up, is they both rely on laws that apply to the elderly. Paul Giamatti's character is an attorney for, well, old people. He makes sure they are cared for, deals with their estates, etc. This fact and the laws themselves are one of the main plot points of Win Win--the structure of the story relies on the laws and their effects. As you will likely remember, Carl Fredricksen's call to adventure in Up is when he is forced to leave his home after assaulting a construction worker. This plot turn, too, relies on laws that apply to the elderly. Someone in the audience asked Mr. McCarthy about this similarity, and he discussed that he has a friend back in New Jersey who is an attorney for the elderly (and who is incredibly passionate about the subject). This friend gave advice during the development of Up and, having never written a creative word in his entire life, co-wrote Win Win with Tom McCarthy. It is a very bizarre thing to have as a common thread through your films, but Tom pulled it off wonderfully. He has two movies which rely on laws pertaining to the elderly, yet they are both incredibly different, and very, very good.
The other aspect of the Q&A that blew my mind was Alex Shaffer. He is the lead of Win Win, who plays a damaged teenager with nothing good in his life except for wrestling. Alex's performance is spectacular; I totally buy that he is a lost, hurt, and lonely kid trying to find where he "fit in." That's why I was very surprised to find out that before Win Win, Alex had never acted before in his life. He was cast for his wrestling talent (he won the state championship in New Jersey several years ago), not his acting ability. He told us about how he worked with an acting coach, and then discussed how amazing it was to work with Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan. His story is really great--that one audition with Tom McCarthy drastically changed his life forever. I promise he'll get more parts in the very near future....
Anyways, I just wanted to share some of the interesting things I learned from Tom. I highly suggest that you go out and see the film when it is released in your state (it is an indie film, so it doesn't have a national release date). Win Win will make you laugh hysterically, make your eyes water a little bit, and, most importantly, it will make you think about yourself and your own life. Go out and see Win Win, and don't forget about the connection it has to everyone's favorite studio, Pixar.