Win Win (a J!-ENT Blu-ray Disc Review)

August 26, 2011 by  

“Win Win” is a film that captures you with its sincere filmmaking and heartfelt situations.  Well-acted, well-written and overall, a Blu-ray release worth checking out!

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Images courtesy of © 2011 Twentieth Century Fox Corporation.  All Rights Reserved.

TITLE: Win Win


DURATION: 95 minutes

BLU-RAY DISC INFORMATION: 1080p High Definition (widescreen 2:35:1), English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French


COMPANY: Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer/Twentieth Century Fox

RELEASE DATE: August 23, 2011

Directed by Thomas McCarthy

Screenplay by Thomas McCarthy

Story by Thomas McCarthy and Joe Tiboni

Produced by Lisa Maria Falcone, Michael London, Mary Jane Skalski

Executive Producer: Lori Keith Douglas, Tom Heller

Co-Producer: Jacqueline Brogan

Associate Producer: Erica Tuchman

Music by Lyle Workman

Cinematography by Oliver Bokelberg

Edited by Tom McArdle

Casting by Kerry Barden, Paul Schnee

Production Design by John Paino

Art Direction by Scott Anderson

Set Decoration by Amanda Carroll

Costume Design by Melissa Toth


Paul Giamatti as Mike Flaherty

Amy Ryan as Jackie Flaherty

Bobby Cannavale as Terry Delfino

Jeffrey Tambor as Stephen Vigman

Burt Young as Leo Poplar

Melanie Lynskey as Cindy

Alex Shaffer as Kyle

Margo Martindale as Eleanor

David W. Thompson as Stemler

Mike Dielielo as Jimmy Reed

Nina Arianda as Shelly

Marcia Haufrecht as Gina Flaherty

Sharon Wilkins as Judge Lee

Clare Foley as Abby

Penelope Kindred as Stella

Sophia Kindred as Stella

Tim Ransom as Stuart Thatcher

Academy Award Nominee Paul Giamatti stars as a lovable yet long-suffering lawyer and high-school wrestling coach who takes us on a brilliantly heartfelt journey through the game of life…where you can’t lose ’em all. When Mike Flaherty (Giamatti) comes across a teenage runaway who also happens to be a champion wrestler, Mike’s luck turns around in spectacular fashion. But his win-win situation soon becomes more complicated than he ever imagined when the boy’s family affairs come into play. Co-starring Oscar Nominee Amy Ryan and directed by Oscar Nominee Tom McCarthy, this touching and funny comedy will leave you cheering.

Actor Thomas McCarthy is known for his film roles on “Meet the Parents”, “2012”, “Michael Clayton”, “Good Night, and Good Luck” and TV roles on “The Wire” and “Law & Order”, but the actor is also a writer and filmmaker.

But back in high school, he and his good friend Joe Tiboni were also wrestlers and felt that there has not been a wrestling movie created in a very long time.

So, the two friends decided to go back to their old neighborhood in Providence, Rhode Island and create a wrestling film.  And sure enough, “Win Win” was born.

McCarthy got together with another friend, actor Paul Giamatti and in March 2010, “Win Win” received a limited release and received positive reviews from film critics nationwide.

The film revolves around New Jersey attorney Mike Flaherty (played by Paul Giamatti, “Sideways”, “Saving Private Ryan”, “Planet of the Apes”).  With the sagging economy, his law practice has taken a hit and also other law practices around the area and he worries how he is going to support his family which include his wife Jackie (played by Amy Ryan, “Gone Baby Gone”, “War of the Worlds”) and his two daughters.

To keep his sanity, Mike also coaches the New Providence High School wrestling team which has been on a losing streak as of late.  Both he and his assistant coach Vigman (played by Jeffrey Tambor, “The Larry Sanders Show”, “The Hangover”) really want the team to live up to the school’s motto “The Home of the Champions” but the team is not that good.

One day, he is able to represent a client named Leo Poplar (played by Burt Young, “Rocky” films), who is a wealthy man but now has dementia.  Knowing that he needs the money for his family, Mike makes an ethical choice to become his guardian while getting paid $1,500 for Leo’s care.  But instead of taking Leo to his home for care, Mike decides to put him in a home for assisted living.  So, he’s taking Leo’s money but not taking care of him at his house as originally intended.

One day, while visiting Leo’s home, he finds a boy named Kyle Timmons (played by Alex Shaffer), a troubled teenager who has ran away from home to live with his grandfather.  But Mike lies to him that his Uncle Leo is forced by the courts to stay at an assisted living home and can’t move back to his house.  As for Kyle, Kyle could stay with his family for a short time.

But on the day that Kyle is supposed to go back home to his mother, he doesn’t want to and learns that his mother doesn’t care too much about Kyle and was beaten by her boyfriend while she is in rehab.

Worried about Kyle, both Mike and Jackie take Kyle in temporarily.  And as Kyle sits and watches Mike teach wrestling, Kyle requests if he can take part in wrestling practice and sure enough, Kyle does a wonderful job.  Mike and his good friend and former wrestling partner Terry Delfino (played by Bobby Cannavale, “The Other Guys”, “Station Agent”) learn from Kyle that he was a former wrestler but also, his talent has led him to the state championship.

So, now Mike feels that Kyle may be the key to making New Providence High School’s wrestling team champions by having a champion wrestler on the team.  And sure enough, Mike and the family have a great relationship with Kyle and Kyle enjoys being in a family with stability.

But things start to go awry when his mother Cindy (played by Melanie Lynskey, “Up In the Air”, “Heavenly Creatures”) shows up from rehab and wants to raise her father (in order to get the money) but also bring Kyle back home.

What will Mike do?



“Win Win” is presented in 1080p High Definition (widescreen 1:85:1).  This independent film is shot on film and thus grain is present and for the most part, picture quality is very clear.  Noticed a more cool color overall, I didn’t notice any edge enhancement, artifacts or banding.  Good enough detail especially on closeups of the actors faces and black levels are nice and deep.

Overall, picture quality for “Win Win” looked very good!


“Win Win” is presented in English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, Spanish and French 5.1 Dolby Digital.  Because the film is primarily a dialogue-driven film, it’s center and front channel driven.  I didn’t notice any major use of surround sound (possibly during the more musical sequences) but dialogue is crisp and clear.

Subtitles are in English SDH, Spanish and French.


“Win Win” comes with the following special features:

  • Deleted Scenes – (1:54) Featuring two deleted scenes.
  • Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni Discuss Win Win – (8:29) Tom McCarthy (director/writer) and Joe Tiboni (writer) talk about how they came up with the concept for the film, the local community support and the casting of the talent.
  • Dave Thompson at Sundance 2011 – (2:27) Dave Thompson (who plays the character of “Stemler”) is interviewed about his experience at Sundance.
  • In Conversation with Tom McCarthy & Paul Giamatti at Sundance 2011 – (2:26) Tom McCarthy and Paul Giamatti talk about working together after being friends for over a decade and also discussion about the film.
  • Family – (2:24) A film preview of “Win Win” and interviews with the director and cast of the film.
  • “Think You Can Wait” Music Video – (4:55) Music video by The National.
  • Theatrical Trailer – (2:22) Theatrical trailer for “Win Win”.

“Win Win” is a heartfelt film and definitely one of the better wrestling films to come out since “Vision Quest”.

“Win Win” is a very good film as it captures the reality of many Americans who are struggling during the tough economy. In the case of Mike Flaherty, not all lawyers are doing well financially.  No clients equals no income and he is definitely feeling the financial pinch that he makes a questionable decision as an attorney.

But what makes the film work is that both director Thomas McCarthy and Joe Tiboni wanted to do a wrestling film but also pulled in some of their real-life situations for this film.  From the look and feel of Mike Flaherty’s home, to the office of where he works, the film tries to showcase the reality of the economy hurting a family but also the life of a normal, working man having to make tough decisions, which includes taking in a troubled kid.

There is no sugar coating, McCarthy and Tiboni made the film’s characters seem real and the situations real as well.  Also, as an independent film, it helps to have the support of your local community, especially when making the wrestling seem interesting, realistic and also showcasing the competition amongst the high school teams.

As a former high school wrestler, I can easily remember as a teenager, having to watch “Vision Quest” (which our coach made us do) but both McCarthy and Tiboni are right, in the fact that there hasn’t been a good film that showcased high school wrestling until “Win Win”.

Everything is captured from the rock n’ roll entrance, the coach to wrestler pep talk and also the wrestling on the ground.

But most of all, it helps when you have a new actor, especially like Alex Shaffer who plays Kyle.  It’s not overacted, everything seems just right.  And both Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan compliment and also enhance Shaffer’s acting.

As for the Blu-ray release, picture quality is good, audio quality is dialogue-driven but also very clear and the special features, while it seems that there are many, they are a bit short.  It would have been nice to have an audio commentary by McCarth and Tiboni.

Overall, “Win Win” is a film that captures you with its sincere filmmaking and heartfelt situations.  Well-acted, well-written and overall, a Blu-ray release worth checking out!

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