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Monday, April 4, 2011

Winning! and Win/Win review

The sad part about the weekend is sometimes things go too well. Consequently, that leaves little time to write. Saturday night was dinner and a movie. Yesterday was the annual trip to Luzerne, Pa to my favorite old pub, Dugan's. 10 hours of head to head fantasy baseball draft left me bleary eyes and exhaausted. By the time I got home around 10pm all I could do was crash. The Guinness, wings and pizza were certainly no help. It is always great seeing the boys. As a National League fan this day is truly special. Lots of talking shit, ball busting and good times. Without boring everyone to death each team gets $75 to draft 24 players. You go through each player and bid against the other 11 teams in quarter bids. This was my 13th draft and I have yet to finish in 1st. I had a good, not great draft yesterday. Biggest problem is I left the table with a bunch of Dodgers and Giants. Not so great for my sleeping habits staying up watching Tim Lincecum and Matt Kemp, underperform for sure.

 The other main event over the weekend was the aforementioned movie night. This week we braved the blue hair brigade at Chatham's Roberts Theatre for "Win/Win". A few things about the setting/evening prior to my review. First, great to see a full house at a 6:40 "art movie". Granted, the film takes place in New Providence, one town over from Chatham. There were several young kids with New Providence gear on and audience members gasped with joy when they showed Springfield Ave on screen. But overall I have been to the Roberts about a half dozen times during the past year and for the most part it is full. Good to see and encouraging to say the least. And this time I didn't have the deaf older guy behind me asking his wife, loudly, "What did he say?". Not the worst thing in the world to abandon the multiplex next time out and give the independent world a look see.

You could do worse than "Win/Win". Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti, once again superb) is a down and out lawyer. His tiny firm has fallen on hard times, much like the high school wrestling team he coaches. In a desperate moment he agrees to act as guardian for one of his clients(Burt Young.) The lure of the $1,500 monthly commission clouds his judgement and overall understanding of what this decision will bring. Within days Kyle, his clients 15 year old grandson, appears out of the blue from Ohio, looking to live with grandpa.  Now, obviously there is some back story Mike needed prior to taking on such a big commitment.  As is often the case when acting out of desperation...  big problems ensue.

Not before we learn Kyle happened to finish 2nd in Ohio wrestling championships as a freshman.  What starts as a temporary stay while looking for his rehabbing mom, turns into a prolonged living arrangement as Kyle progresses his way through New Jersey's sectionals and regionals.  

As the events unfold, and we see Mike and wife Jackie (Amy Ryan) struggle to make ends meet and care for another child in addition to their 2 young daughters the metaphors run deep.  Wrestling is very much the physical equivalent to the daily struggles adults deal with.  Boilers need replacing so we scrape together some money or let it slide and hope for the best.  Health insurance bills are overdue so we take a part time job bartending, or in this case, take on an elderly man in the early stages of dementia.  And the young people in our lives are always affected.

Kyle reacts to his mom's drug abuse by skipping town and looking for stability.  This is a good kid who has made mistakes.  All he is looking for is stability and proper guidance.  When he thinks he has that with the Flaherty's it is inevitable he will be let down again.  But that is ok.  Kyle needs to understand that most adults suffer with doing what is right, versus what is good.  Sometimes the 2 concepts are very very apart.  But, in the end, if you are with someone who has your best interests at heart, you can win.  Life is a series of challenges, and defeats, and let downs.  But for all of that, if you have a moment of profound victory and joy...  those detours will all be forgotten (if only for a moment.)

There are some genuine laughs and good supporting performances.  Jeffrey Tambor and Union City's Bobby Cannavale have fun as Mike's assistant coaches and best friends.  And real life Hunterdon Central wrestling champion Alex Shaffer does nice work as Kyle, the struggling kid looking for life's hard answers.  And I am not going to complain about the film not being shot in NJ... or the fact that New Providence shipped all its gear to (gasp) New York and Long Island for principal photography.  Suspend disbelief and think like all my 70 year old friends who saw the film with me.  This is a true Jersey film.  Wrestling.  Deceit.  Comedy.  Redemption.

Oh, and a Bon Jovi soundtrack...

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