One of my favorite movies is Barton Fink. John Turturro plays the title character, a young playwright who gets a job writing screenplays for a Hollywood studio in the 1940s. His only instruction is to write a wrestling picture. After dealing with a major case of writer’s block, a dead body, a mass murdering neighbor and a hotel fire he finishes his script. He’s so happy with it that he dances the jig. But his boss is so disgusted by “a fruity movie about suffering” that he condemns Barton Fink to a purgatory where he stays in LA under contract with none of his scripts ever to be produced.
They never recite a line in Barton Fink from the fruity wrestling movie about suffering, but I imagine it might resemble Win Win.
Win Win is one of those comedy/drama/indie family films like Little Miss Sunshine centering around a quirky activity which in this case is high school wrestling. It hits all the right notes, you laugh most of the times they want you to laugh, it warms your heart when they want it to be warm. But still the inner studio head in me was yelling at my softer facets for enjoying it.
Paul Giametti plays one of his trademark schlubs (I’m trying to figure out who got these roles before Giametti popped up. Danny DeVito?). He’s a lawyer with a wife and two kids who’s about to go broke, so he tells a judge he’ll take guardianship of an elderly client along with the $1500 a month stipend that comes with him. But soon the client’s troubled grandchild pops up. The kid’s a wrestling prodigy and since Giametti is a high school wrestling coach things seem perfect until complications, prodigal children, and guilty consciences show up.
The movie goes out of its way to feature conventionally ugly actors which I imagine was done to make the movie seem truer to life, but it then sticks in conventional characters like the cute six year old who likes to curse and the best friend who says the darndest things. The plot has the tension build and then right before Giametti should face the reckoning he deserves the movie abruptly stops to give everyone a happy ending.
But when you think about the final fates of all the characters the ending really isn’t that happy. It’s also a bit of a disappointment when you compare it with the writer/director Tom McCarthy’s previous movie, The Visitor, whose protagonist goes on a more fulfilling and honest journey. But Win Win was made to be a crowd pleasing family film, not neo-realism, and certainly not a wrestling movie.
A proper wrestling movie would feature strippers, bloody fight scenes, and Micky Rourke on human growth hormones.