I wish I had gotten the chance to see WIN WIN sooner, because it’s easily one of the best movies of the year so far (though it is still early). Tom McCarthy, director of other great films like THE VISITOR and THE STATION AGENT, has such a gift for capturing real characters, real emotions, and real relationships.
Because all the ingredients are there for something really cloying and formulaic and schmaltzy. Middle-aged guy seemingly disillusioned, troubled teenager, and sports. So much here can go veering off the road into Hallmark card territory, or in the other direction into handling things too darkly. Instead McCarthy steers it all so deftly that it’s hard not to be genuinely taken in by these believably flawed characters.
I’d even venture to say that the character of Kyle, the aforementioned troubled teen, is one of the most authentic portrayals of actual teenage behavior ever put on screen. Same goes for the other kids in the periphery. Nobody is one-note, nobody is a caricature, nobody is an uncontrolled ball of irrational emotions (which we seem to think all teens are all the time). And the relationship between Kyle and the men in the film is equally authentic in showing the ‘ol homosocial bonding. There’s nothing here that has even the slightest whiff of being inauthentic. It’s the way many dramas should be.