I resisted seeing Win Win for several months on account of its indie-pastiche marketing design. As a friend of mine pointed out, it was made to look like a Wes Anderson film, evidenced by the poster's bold yellow title text, symmetrical composition, and characters directly facing the camera.* The real tragedy of this is that a Fox Searchlight felt it had to sell the film to a niche audience to secure viewership, when in reality it faintly resembled the poster/DVD cover and should have wide appeal. It is life-affirming without being formulaic, hilarious without resorting to hackneyed stereotypes, and full of sharp observances without lecturing. As we have come to expect from Paul Giamatti, his performance is one of quiet subtlety. Few actors can pull off the challenges Giamatti meets in portraying a man hewing ethical lines in his struggle to make ends meet. Win Win doesn't just belong to Giamatti, but also to Amy Ryan, Jeffrey Tambor, Bobby Cannavale, and Alex Shaffer, each of whose performances contribute in making the dialogue and comedy—and the film as a whole—come alive. However, Win Win isn’t without flaw. David Edelstein sums up my criticisms far more succinctly and elegantly than I, expressing a wish that director Tom McCarthy would open and free up his frames and maybe hold shots longer. But these are minor complaints in the scope of what he achieves with this, his third feature. Perhaps most unique about McCarthy’s budding directorial voice is how skillfully in each of his three films he orchestrates a rich assembly of characters and performances in service of simple, but wholly genuine story told with nuance. (Tom McCarthy, 2011) ***
* I don't dislike the Wes Anderson aesthetic. Nevertheless, it has become tired and often itself a cliché akin to the very contemporary tropes Anderson ostensibly is out to undermine.