Director Tom McCarthy said in an interview that he can’t stand sports movies in which the actors can’t play the sport, which is why he chose Alex Shaffer, a state champion wrestler, to play the part of Kyle. Win Win is definitely what you would call a character-driven movie, not that it is lacking in story but without the performances of the principal actors it wouldn’t have amounted to much of a film. Fine acting and some precision dialogue lift this movie well above the formulaic bullshit filling most of the theaters at the mall cineplex.
At first Kyle seems like a typical maladjusted, teenage misfit but we quickly see that there is a lot more to him than his rough exterior of monosyllabic speech, dyed hair, and cigarettes. “He’s probably on drugs,” one character remarks. Before we see that Kyle is some sort of prodigy on the wrestling mat we see that he is basically a fine boy: polite, sweet, honest, etc. This is a child who probably had every right to become a juvenile delinquent.
There is a human element starkly absent from the run-of-the-mill Hollywood crap. Plenty of that humanity stuff here. The mother is a woman sensible in ways that only a mother can be. His best friend exhibits all of the qualities required for this position. A taciturn daughter who says random shit that only kids can say. Writers, even the best of them, can’t make this stuff up but need to be like the best journalists and listen to children. At the dinner table the daughter asks Kyle with the utmost seriousness, “Do you want to play croquet?” A question completely out-of-the-blue like children ask all the time.
The movie is billed as a comedy and it is, but what drew me in was that it’s also incredibly sweet. Kyle is just such a great kid. He’s is what you would want your kids to be like. He’s who I would have wanted to be more like in high school, a better version of myself, a better version of most people. This is all apart from the fact that the kid happens to be a bad-ass grappler. Although not really a sports movie, there are enough scenes of wrestling to probably qualify it for the genre, and there are certainly a lot of laughs to file it under comedy, Win Win is more sweet than anything. Add that to its other qualities and you have a pretty good little movie in my book.