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WIN WIN (M)  Cinema Nova (106 minutes)

TOM McCarthy specialises in nice little films about the foibles of ordinary Americans: unless you have a taste for that sort of thing, Win Win is a total bore.

TOM McCarthy specialises in nice little films about the foibles of ordinary Americans: unless you have a taste for that sort of thing, Win Win is a total bore.

Eternal schlub Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty, a family man who runs a struggling legal practice and coaches high school wrestling in his spare time.

As a source of extra cash, he offers to become the official guardian of his senile client Leo (Burt Young) once the papers are signed, he drops the old man off at a retirement home, hoping that no one will catch on to the swindle.

Complications arise when Leo's sullen teenage grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer) shows up in town and turns out to be a wrestling champion.

Dramatically there is not much at stake in this contrived scenario, especially as McCarthy is so keen to reassure us that Mike, despite his lapses, is basically a decent guy.

Nor does the film work as a comedy: laugh-out-loud jokes are rare, and the observational humour is hampered by an uncertain ear for dialogue (there's a lame exchange about the use of the term "fierce").

Neither Kyle nor Leo come to life as more than plot devices meant to speed the hero along the road to redemption.

The one bright spot is Amy Ryan as Mike's wife, Jackie, who serves as the conscience of the movie she brings enough warmth and vigour to her dreary role to make you wonder why she'd stay married to such a loser.


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