Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice

In 1969, things were more open minded than in decades past. It was “The Age of Aquarius” and I imagine couples were delving curiously into open marriage affairs and wife swapping.
Title: Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice
Number of times I’ve seen it: 1
Genre: Comedy, Drama
MPAA Rating: R
Year: 1969
Director: Paul Mazursky, known for “Down and Out in Beverly Hills,” “Antz”
Top Billed Cast: Natalie Wood, Robert Culp, Elliott Gould, Dyan Cannon
Brief Synopsis: 2 couples explore open marriage affairs and a wife swap.

This film gets into those social mores without being an x rated film. It is a comedy but the concepts show the difference between traditional and modern marriages which can sometimes make for an uncomfortable scene. Natalie Wood is stunning. She plays an open-minded wife who lets Robert Culp’s character have an affair. Through doing so, she has an impact of Dyan Cannon’s character who initially has no intention of allowing her husband, played by Elliot Gould, to have an affair. It’s a funny, interesting study of free love marriage in 1969.

The Benefactor

This film was written and directed by Andrew Renzi who is a relative newcomer. Unfortunately we see the same sort of “bare all” ugly reality side Richard Gere gave us in Time out of Mind, and it doesn’t work as well.

This film was written and directed by Andrew Renzi who is a relative newcomer. Unfortunately we see the same sort of “bare all” ugly reality side Richard Gere gave us in Time out of Mind, and it doesn’t work as well.

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The Benefactor (2015)
Cast

Dakota Fanning, Theo James, Richard Gere

Directed by

Andrew Renzi

Written by

Andrew Renzi

Other Info

Drama
Rated R
1hr 33min
Riley’s Rating:

The more you know about addiction the more you know the difference between a schedule I drug and a schedule V. No addict is groping for a fix of a schedule V drug, although some kids these days are mixing them to get high. Richard Gere is showing us addiction in a very in-your-face way. He seems to be creating these roles for himself at his current age which I believe is around 60. Time Out of Mind is where I saw it recently. He is bare-boned and raw in that one suffering the effects of homelessness and early-onset Alzheimers. You can see his pain in that film, in fact, you fan smell it, even feel it as your own. It’s uncomfortable in that film as it is in The Benefactor. I’m fairly certain Mr. Gere is trying to show he’s a great actor by baring his yellow teeth, so to speak. In other words, he’s not holding back in his portrayal of character these days and he wants you to come along on the journey with him.

The Benefactor isn’t just about addiction but rather the personality flaws and types that make people become addicted. We can say to ourselves, “He’s an addict by choice, that would never happen to me.” We say it every day about the disheveled brutish person begging for a dollar in front of Starbucks. We say it about our friend’s teen who just entered rehab. We judge and prejudge and post-judge and become disgusted when we hear about the lengths addicts go to in order to obtain a fix. This film looks at one man and who he is in a singular way. In the beginning you could argue we are meant to hate him. Middle and end,  one could argue the same.

He’s the head of a hospital, a pushy benefactor to an unwitting twenty something Olivia, played by Dakota Fanning of many movies you can look up if you don’t already know her. He is also a general piece of shit to her fiancee, Luke, played by Theo James known for the Divergence series. Let’s visit a tiny bit of plot to see why he acts this way: Franny (Gere) was in a terrible car accident with Mia (Cheryl Hines) and Bobby (Dylan Baker) and Mia and Bobby were killed. Franny was like an uncle to Olivia and after recovering from the accident and becoming addicted to pain pills, he extends financial help and a space in his mansion-like home for Olivia and Luke to live. The trouble is, his money has strings attached and he needs a lot of attention.

We see Franny go through withdrawals from Morphine and through many embarrassing situations where he begs for drugs from many people in the movie, including Olivia and Luke, who by the way is an oncologist doctor. Watching the film is uncomfortable to say the least. As I noted earlier in my review, Gere seems bent on showing every ugly (real?) side to the audience these days. It may be there is no better side. Whatever the reason, this film is the second in a series of films where he chooses to be ugly and in-your-face. It’s telling in fact after the final generic title flash which indicates the end that we see flashes of Gere shaving his scraggly, overgrown white beard with a razor. I actually stopped watching there because I was so on edge with what he would do to himself throughout the movie, I thought he might cut himself on purpose just to show us his true blood.

This is an ok story but a strange convoluted script. Gere is meant to be hated and he is. I had no compassion for him in the little pharmacy desperate to get a refill. He screams, he cuts himself, he says mean hurtful things to olivia and her fiancee, it’s not a happy go lucky movie like Pretty Woman that’s for darned sure. He’s moved way beyond that as an artist and I think he wants you to know it. If he could have developed the other characters a bit more it might have been better. We never get the backstory on what Olivia has been doing as he was healing. Well, she’s pregnant so we know one thing she was doing. Movies with a hate-able protagonist work better when you get other perspectives. As it is, the whole movie is a camera right up Gere’s nose. That detracts from the story.

Another problem is the script given to Gere. I don’t “buy it” when he’s trying to be tender with a kid in the cancer wing, hiding under the blanket and playing good doctor. I don’t buy it when he’s trying to be sweet with Olivia. He doesn’t strike me as an uncle or even a friend. For her to move in with him, risking her marriage and her pregnancy, it would need to be a safer place. It feels tense from the beginning. Another odd non-sequitur is the fact that Luke just up and moves in with Franny because Olivia wants to. If Luke is a doctor, couldn’t they afford their own place? Finally, by the end of the film, we hate Franny almost to the point where we want him to disappear. Yes, he’s that annoying. Still, when he wakes up, the orderly nurse escorts him to the maternity ward to see Luke and Olivia’s child? What? Based on the story I sat through for 1hr 30mins, that would not be appropriate at all. I kept expecting it to all be a dream and he’d wake up in rehab. Unfortunately, you’ll find an alternate to my expectation. There isn’t anything smart here. I think if you really love Richard Gere in movies, you may have a reason to go. You’re gonna see everything about him at 60, well, not everything. Hopefully that won’t get back to him and give him any ideas.

‘Colonia’ (The Colony)

Life in a cult, specifically in a commune sounds horrible to most people. This film shows the worst of the worst in history that eventually fell when its leader was captured.

*This review contains spoilers.

Emma Watson ladles through this historical drama, “inspired by true events.” There are elements of cults and what they do to their members in this but it’s really about one in particular that had a truly evil leader and was eventually tried and convicted as such.

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Colonia
Cast

Emma Watson, Daniel Brühl, Michael Nyqvist

Directed by

Florian Gallenberger

Written by

Torsten Wenzel, Florian Gallenberger

Other Info

Drama, History, Romance
Rated R
1h 50min

I often wonder in my life’s travels how many people know what a cult is? I do. I had experience with one in college that I’ll never forget. It started with me attending their little “bible talk” and before too long they were pressuring me to move into a “shepherd” brothers house and pay part of the rent. For God, nonetheless. Before I got too involved, my Dad got wise to what I told him and explained they were a cult on campus for years. That’s when I quit going to meetings. Colonia is a true story about a cult in Chile. I think it has existed up until the early 2000’s. In the film, once you enter you can never leave. In fact, up to the time the story takes place, no one had ever escaped the cult. That’s what makes this story interesting.

Emma Waston and Daniel Bruhl play Lena and Daniel, a Chilean Professor/activist and his English stewardess girlfriend. When a coup erupts in Chile, Daniel is captured. The activists tell her he has been exiled to the Colonia Dignidad, a world-famous frightening place where the members stay for life in a brutally neo Christian environment. Sins are punished by group slapping, to name one torture. When Lena hears her love has been taken there, she realizes her only chance to save him is to enter the cult voluntarily. She does, and a large segment of the film shows the torture she endures at the hands of this sick cult. Michael Nyqvist plays Paul Schäfer, the charismatic and frightening leader of the cult. We learn later he has impregnated, raped, and tortured thousands of members in the cult. He does a great job playing the part. I always wonder what the actor’s motivation could be for playing the part of a cult rapist. No matter, he finds it and he ends up playing this role quite well.

thecolony2It’s interesting watching Watson adopt the tenets of the cult. Several times, he tests her. It takes many days before she sees Daniel alive there. She has to go on faith that he is there and that she has done the right thing coming to the site. Daniel has to pretend he’s retarded as a result of a terrible beating he receives. It’s smart because they send him to the commune since they feel every person has a purpose. There are some terrible scenes of abuse. When Lena is working in the fields the first day she says she is thirsty. One of the leaders, an especially evil one, brings her a bucket of water telling her to not drink it but rather carry it with her all day. In another case, a woman shares she is to be married. This is forbidden in the commune so the leaders subject her to a public “slapping” or beating session to the point to where she must be hospitalized. Even the man who she was supposed to be married to must deal blows on her face. It is a barbaric scene and apparently the kid of thing that went on in Colonia.

Emma Watson plays the role barely well. I find her a little too unaffected by everything. I think she plays sheltered roles well but when it all comes down to her and her agony, she falls short. In this role, she is a bit weak that way. In a similar fashion, Daniel Bruhl is hard to relate with. I found both of their faces and delivery of dialog vanilla. These roles call for a dynamic set of emotions and neither seems to exude that. But, at the end of the day, the story itself is not all that engaging either. It was not promoted well and there is a bit of false advertising in it. You can watch the trailer or read the ads and then later in the film think to yourself, “I’ve been duped, this is not what I thought.” I like historical films and this is based on a story but it didn’t play out like a movie about cults. Instead, it was about torture and evil people. It would have been nice to see a little more on the psychology of cults and communes and a lot less of the coup material.

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Years ago I had a college writing teacher who would tell the class “Focus on one thing.” I think Colonia focuses on too many things. Occasionally a film can get away with multiple items to focus on but usually, the good ones I remember have that overall focus. The one in this film should have been the Colony because that was the title. It should have started at the gate going in. The coup in Chile really has little to do with the cult stuff. It could have been portrayed quickly in the introduction. As it is you have to wait almost 1/3 of the film to get into the commune and even then, they are still building up to what’s really going on in there. The final scenes are great. You feel elated as they escape to the airport and somehow convince the pilot to fly them away, even with Chileans with assault rifle banging on the door. It’s a great ending to a so/so movie. It lost points with me in its story because it wasn’t focused enough. Furthermore, I thought Emma Watson was miscast. This role needs someone who wears their emotion on her face, blood sweat, and tears. Maybe in 20 years we’ll see that from Emma but she’s not showing it enough in this film.

Luke Cage

Luke Cage is the latest output from Marvel. I just started watching the early epsiodes on Netflix. The show has it all: a tough, relatable hero, villains, a few attractive love interests, and a superpower that will be hard to beat throughout the show. It may be considered different in that Cage is black but I find the immersion in his small Harlem community entertaining and enlightening. How many seasons will it power out? Time will tell.

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Cast

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Written by

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Other Info

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Cage is a hangdog dishwasher trying to make ends meet with two jobs. He lives alone in a small apartment and gets chased down by the little old landlady. I think they are trying to show us a good-hearted guy, humble, and trying not to use his superpowers. He hangs out at a barbershop and gets to know “Pops,” the owner quite well. In fact, he is like a father figure to Cage. There is another surrogate son in the picture, he’s the mafia leader running an organized crime ring in the city. I have a feeling there will be a lot of friction between these two. It could perhaps resemble a Lex Luthor/Clark Kent rivalry.

Cage’s superpower appears to simply be indestructibility. He gets stabbed and knives break, shot and bullets fly off. It doesn’t appear he has a weakness yet, I am only on e3. I find it a highly entertaining show. I recommend it for anyone who likes Marvel superheroes or thriller tv.

Apocalypse Now

War movies don’t always leave a good impression with me. In fact, I rarely go to see them. When I saw Apocalypse Now, it was years after its release on DVD and I wasn’t that excited going in. Luckily, I was hugely pleased with the result. This film made it into Riley’s Great 100.

apocalypsenow-poster

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Cast

Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall

Directed by

Francis Ford Coppola

Written by

John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola

Other Info

Drama, War
Rated R
2h 33min

When I saw it the first time, I was in an American Literature course at Cal State Fullerton. I had a prof named “Dr. Friend.” Some people didn’t see him as a friend but I did, considering the amazing books and movies he turned me on to. This film is one of those.

One of the assigned novels in the course was Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” This is a gut-wrenching novel about killing for profit. The first chapter of the book is full of blood soaked descriptions. It describes a place where human life no longer has value in the wake of the mighty dollar. Conrad was getting at real “truth” and many a college student since has studied his words looking for that elusive word. What is at the heart of darkness? That’s what Conrad is luring us toward.

Apocalypse-Now3Apocalypse Now is based on “Heart of Darkness.” It takes place on a boat in Vietnam. The soldiers are lost in a lost cause war but they stumble on something far more sinister and evil. A living being created by the American war machine. There are parallels to Conrad’s book but both pieces stand alone as incredible vignettes of evil and the dark propensity of the human soul if left unchecked.
IMDB gives a short synopsis as such:

During the Vietnam War, Captain Willard is sent on a dangerous mission into Cambodia to assassinate a renegade colonel who has set himself up as a god among a local tribe.

Robert Duvall stars in this film along with Harrison Ford a cast of other now-legendary actors. The two that usually get the most press are Martin Sheen as Captain Willard and Marlon Brando as Kurtz. Apocalypse Now KurtzBrando is hypnotic to watch and listen to. What can you do when you have sympathy for the devil? The interplay of what we see as “moral” vs. “animal” makes this movie a trip. Should we assign guilt to those who are survivalists at all costs? If not, why do we murder them in war? These are questions that came up for me. I saw this as less a war movie and more or a moral drama. I really enjoyed it on that level.

david_halberstam_on_apocalypse_nowThe war images are still prevalent here. Almost every scene has an orange sky, alluding to the use of crop dust laced with Agent Orange to commit mass unbridled homicide against the Viet Cong. All is fair in love and war? You see the men uttering phrases like: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning,” upon waking. There is even a stud from San Diego with a surfboard who catches waves in between mass carnage. This black humor lays the foundation to look at what we do in the military on both sides and the dark hearts we must have to do it. The director, Francis Ford Coppola gave so much of his heart and soul to make this movie. francis-ford-coppola-on-the-set-of-apocalypse-now-1050x715A documentary called Hearts of Darkness shows some of the ghastly things the cast and director had to go through to get this filmed. It’s an amazing doc, I highly recommend it. Martin Sheen was so stressed filming he had a heart attack during filming. Fortunately he was able to get proper medical care and rest and he finished the film. If you are like me and don’t like war films but the idea of this “heart of darkness” being portrayed is interesting to you, I recommend seeing it anyway. The war images soon fade in the presence of a profound cinematic look at the human heart. What you make of that experience is up to you and your conscience. Are you more or Kurtz or Willard? For me it was tough to choose one over the other as good. In the end though, I made my choice. I recommend this film highly, a LOT of other movie critics do as well. This is of course, a classic of all time.

The Survivalist

A well-acted thriller set in post-apocalyptic foliage.

Most post-apocalyptic films focus on the water shortage (“Tank Girl”) or even gasoline (“The Road Warrior”. This film has famine as its hazard. It starts in a survivalist’s cabin that has food among starving people who don’t. As a result, conflict happens.

The Survivalist (2015)
Cast
Mia Goth

as Milja

Martin McCann

as Survivalist

Barry Ward

as Forager

Directed by
Stephen Fingleton
Written by
Stephen Fingleton
Other Info

Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Rated PG-13
1h 44min

An excellent film that captures attention with no emotion. The people we see here are shells of their former selves. Like “Mad Max” the world as we know it has been destroyed. People are scavengers making their way to survival. The “Survivalist” played by Martin McCann has fond a way to farm his own food. When I say food, I’m talking about things like leeks and radishes. It’s humble to be sure. Still, in a world that is starving, he is like a king. Furthermore, thieves would love to have their way with his produce and they are constantly trying to do so.

While the film starts out showing us nifty survival stuff, that passes. After that it is a subdued dialog between few drifters and most notably, an old woman and her daughter played by Mia Goth. Incidentally, in real life she is the fiance of Shia Lebouef. Once the girl shows up we see a lot of attempts at communication, mostly by the old woman, but we find that sex barter is the only thing that really allows them close to him.

I kept thinking about how it could get to this after an apocalypse. I mean, if we know no one can really do anything for us, do we continue being charitable? Is the Survivalist charitable? He comes close but I can’t say he ever is truly. Is this what we must become in order to survive? Is survival worth losing trust for anyone? These are the sorts of questions that came up for me.

The film has an eerie feeling to it and a surprising twist at the end. The events that precede that twist are important to recall. I’m not si sure U know what the twist really means. I have a hunch it’s more than I am relaying to you now. I will most definitely see it a second time but if you have any ideas, do tell! This kept my wife and I’s attention the whole time and for that reason I recommend it. Because it had no emotion, I felt it was somewhat lacking. Furthermore, there could have been more foreshadowing about the twist at the end. That’s why I took a star from the score.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green

By using an unreal hero in much the same way Forrest Gump did The Odd Life of Timothy Green manages to show us the best parts of our humanity as well as those same things in others.

The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a film directed by Peter Hedges, known for directing Dan in Real Life and About a Boy. It stars many new and established actors such as Jennifer Garner, Joel Edgerton, CJ Adams, Odeya Rush, Shohreh Aghdashloo, and others. It’s a Disney film so the casting directors clearly spared no expense finding talent to cast this story. This family film, while not necessarily for kids it does have a PG rating, is a refreshing detour from recent bombastic releases of the same year like Batman and Battleship. By using an unreal hero in much the same way Forrest Gump did, The Odd Life of Timothy Green manages to show us the best parts of our humanity as well as those in others.

Mrs. Green, played by Jennifer Garner, and Mr. Green, played by Joel Edgerton, really want to have a child but alas, it isn’t possible. The beginning of the film shows the futility of their desperate quest to have a child. They start out in the film being interviewed for something, we don’t quite know what right away. It turns out they are interviewing to adopt a child but their story reveals they have already had a child. Timothy Green, played by CJ Adams, portrays their child with a mysterious origin. It appears he was in their lives only for a short time to teach them that “they [are] enough” as parents. His character is a wonderful combination of fantasy and realism.

The Greens tell the story of how Timothy came to be, which is not in the usual way, and what they learned from him while he was there. Finally, there is a tear-jerker conclusion that brings their story to a climax and leaves us back in the beginning interview. The ending is spectacular. There is nothing hard-to-get with this movie. You know early on what is happening yet you enjoy watching it play out. There were a few twists here and there I didn’t see coming but I guessed about 97% of the movie. Normally that would mean it was boring, it was far from that. My interest was piqued throughout and this movie bears testimony that Disney can still tell a story better than anyone.

In conclusion, The Odd Life of Timothy Green is a sweet story set in an American background that tells us about our own humanity. For me, it fulfilled the definition of a great movie. Much like the Greens, we all want something for ourselves that we can love, like a child. The Greens learn that the good in them can and should be shared with or without a child. They learn that they matter in their circle of friends and family. When Timothy arrives, everyone takes notice and when he must bid farewell, everyone is sad but not destitute. Like the Greens we the audience are left better for having known him.

Infinitely Polar Bear

“Infinitely Polar Bear” is movie from the perspective of a daughter growing up with a bipolar dad who we are expected to see as responsible. I disagree with what the poster and the marketing infer. He only perpetuates the stigma of bipolars being irresponsible, loud, and dangerous. Maya Forbes both directed it and wrote the screenplay. She is best known for being on the writing team on the animated feature “Monsters vs. Aliens” and “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Dog Days.” This is her directorial debut.

When you aim to portray a disorder in media, I think it’s a heavy burden to portray it accurately. If you don’t feel the burden, you shouldn’t make the movie.

I can’t help but wonder if her lack of experience with drama made the screenplay suffer. Despite the amazing casting and acting, it seems the characters never really grow into their skin and that’s unfortunate. Bipolar is a mood disorder that that affects roughly 4% of the population and is still largely misunderstood. When you aim to portray a disorder in media, I think it’s a heavy burden to portray it accurately. If you don’t feel the burden, you shouldn’t make the movie.

This movie about a family is unique in the way it focuses sharply on the dad, Cam Stuart played by Mark Ruffalo, and his two daughters in a microcosm. The wife, Maggie Stuart played by Zoe Saldana, weaves in and out but her role is secondary to the plot about a bipolar dad trying to prove his ability to take care of his daughters. This is hard enough for a bipolar off his meds and the girls don’t make it any easier.

I felt the screenplay failed to portray the medical and therapeutic necessities for a bipolar. I think it would have been a lot stronger if Cam and his family went to therapy and learned more about the disorder that is well known to cause erratic behavior, depression, suicide, and an inability to work. In turn, this would educate the largely ignorant audience. There are many functional professionals and famous people with bipolar taking their lithium, getting therapy, doing “the work,” and making amazing contributions despite the moods. Cam is recklessly irresponsible about his disorder. If you want to see a dysfunctional example of bipolar, you’ll get what you’re looking for.

The idea that he can control it without lithium is just selfish. Bipolar has been described as a broken mood thermostat, even at 115 degrees fahrenheit, your brain can’t cool down. The same is true for the depressive or “cold” phase when your mood plummets. He puts his daughters in grave danger several times in the movie. In real life, they would be taken by social services. I did like the acting and if you’re a Mark Ruffalo fan, you’ll enjoy seeing him in a very obnoxious, tortured role. He usually doesn’t play roles like that this well. Too bad he didn’t have a better script. For irresponsibly furthering a negative stereotype of a psychiatric disorder through a negligent script, it lost two points with me. As cute as the title is, I’ll have to keep waiting for the movie that shows a functional bipolar. Maybe I’ll have to write it.

Winter’s Bone

I know people living in poverty. Their income status never prevents them from doing things like picking up a banjo or making sweet tea with family. Human charms like these transcend socio-economic levels as the independent film “Winter’s Bone” reminds us. It also reminds us that rural poverty is such a sad sad thing. “Winter’s Bone” is set in the backlands of the Ozarks. It centers around 17-year-old Ree Dolly, played by then newcomer Jennifer Lawrence. She is a pretty, determined girl whose journey threatens thorny characters driven only by self-preservation. As is true of most independent films, most the actors are no-namers (though Lawrence has of course become famous in her own right since this movie). “Winter’s Bone” was directed by Debra Granik.

Ree’s mother is mentally challenged and incapacitated. This was likely brought on by a lifestyle of methamphetamine abuse. In other words, it is important to the story that we see Ree has not raised herself alone. There were at one point “greener pastures.” At one point, one of the most powerful scenes in the movies, Ree begs her mother in tears to “just this once” tell her what to do. Sadly, mother can not.

Ree has to take care of her mother along with her two siblings who seem to live in ignorance of their blight. They play and smile and jump on their trampoline with the images of abject poverty all around. Their house is a shack, but a profanely beautiful one. In the early scenes, Ree has to make do just to feed the dog with rotten leftovers in Tupperware containers. At one point, they shoot and skin squirrel. The children are priceless characters and they give the impending dark plot a sense of light relief throughout. The scenes where they play and talk with Ree are heartwarming and remind us of our humanity. Whenever Ree has to leave them, you feel tension.

Ree’s father has jumped bail. He had a long history of “cooking” meth and after a somewhat fuzzy telling of his involvement in a larger ring, we find out he is sought by the bondsman. Ree is told by him she’ll lose the house unless she produces her father, dead or alive. “I’ll find him,” is Ree’s resolute response which sets her on a mythic journey through the Ozark backlands and through her shady and fascinating relatives. She’s seeking her father to save their house.

“Winter’s Bone” is a wonderful piece of “film as literature.” It uses clever camera angles and cinematography akin to Thomas Kinkade paintings or Ansel Adams photos. It makes you feel like you are part of a family reunion and that makes you feel warm inside. Of course, at family reunions, you sometimes get an earful of shady stuff you’d rather not know. You get some of that in “Winter’s Bone”. I took it all in, the beauty along with the profane scenes.

For an excellent script, convincing characters that move you, and cinematography that will take your breath away, I recommend this movie. In fact, I agree with Roger Ebert that this is one of the best movies of 2010.

Win Win

Win Win is about a man who learns that using people to get money is a lose lose.

“Win Win” was released in 2012. The film was directed by Thomas McCarthy (known for: 2012 and Meet the Parents). It is about a man who learns that using people to get money is a lose-lose. The acting is excellent and the script first rate. It’s about the choices we make regarding the people we let into our lives.

The story begins as a struggling lawyer, Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti), takes over guardianship of his client, Leo Poplar (Burt Young). At first it seems to make sense to make money off Leo. After all, Mike is almost broke and has a family to feed. It appears to be a “win” for Mike for a little while. Unfortunately though, the situation soon goes bad. Leo’s grandson Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up one day looking for his grandpa. Kyle has run away from his mother Cindy (Melanie Lynskey) who is a drug addict and Kyle needs refuge from her.

Mike takes him into his own home and finds out that Kyle is a star wrestler. He has a chance to be a real champion, which Mike uses again for personal gain. Things go along pretty smoothly for a while until Kyle’s mother shows up with an attorney, Mike sternly realizes he will gain nothing through taking care of Leo and Kyle. He has to make a moral decision at that point which makes the title Win Win indeed an ironic one.

This is a heart warming story. The characters are real, like the ones on an ordinary suburban street. Are people more important than profits? That’s the basic question Win Win raises. There are slow moments but it’s an entertaining vignette of Mike and the choices he makes.