Win Win

Win Win

***1/2

The sport of wrestling still exists apparently.

I was under the impression that wrestling had disappeared from the planet when Andre the Giant died, Nikolai Volkoff became our ally, and Hulk Hogan turned into a reality TV star.

“Win Win” shows us that Greco-Roman-style wrestling not only still exists, but it can be a major force for good in people’s lives. Who knew?

Generally speaking, any man who derives his success, joy, and fulfillment from high school boys wrestling probably be watched closely by the local authorities.

However, “Win Win” shows us that happiness comes when you least expect it and in ways that you never planned. A good movie can open your mind to new ideas and introduce you to a world that you never knew existed.

“Win Win” tells the uplifting story of Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti): a small-time lawyer and part-time wrestling coach living in a quiet North Jersey suburb. His private practice is failing and he is willing to do just about anything to keep his wife (Amy Ryan) and young daughters from knowing how close they are to financial oblivion.

He comes up with a naughty scheme. Mike convinces the local judge to appoint him legal guardian of a wealthy client who is suffering from dementia. Mike promises to take good care of him for a fee of $1500 a month but promptly puts the old man into an assisted living home.

But in this Hallmark Hall of Fame-esque world, even the most selfish acts can have wonderful unintended consequences. Mike’s elder abuse gambit gets more complicated when the old man’s long-lost grandson shows up looking for a place to live.

This both cuts into Mike’s profits and guarantees that his unethical dealings are going to be exposed. However, in a wild coincidence, it turns out that the boy is an exceptional wrestler. What starts as a disaster for Mike ends up being a win-win.

This is not your average edgy independent film. If “Win Win” had fewer f-bombs and starred Sandra Bullock and Tim McGraw, it could have been a mainstream blockbuster.

Writer/director Tom McCarthy perfectly balances his optimism and positivity with a spirit of sophistication and realism. “Win Win” is a sappy crowd-pleaser that does not insult your intelligence.

The film’s secret weapon is the charming and hilarious performance of Bobby Cannavale as Mike’s best friend Terry. Terry is embittered by his recent divorce and obsessed with his two-timing ex-wife.

Aware of how miserable he is, Terry joins the coaching staff of Mike’s wrestling team. By jumping into something new and obsessing over something positive, Terry turns his life around. And with a constant barrage of great jokes, Terry bumps the movie up from good to great.

“Win Win” is a pure, unapologetic crowd-pleaser. I think everyone will like it.

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