Belmont: Chicagoans Get a Glimpse of 'Win Win' and Chat with Director

Win Win Poster

Win WIn, directed by Tom McCarthy, hits theaters March 25.
(Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures) 

Belmont Stop IconBy Katie Karpowicz

The Red Line Project

Posted: Monrday, March 7, 2011

Screenwriter/director Tom McCarthy held a pre-screening of his newest film "Win Win" on March 2 at Landmark Century Theater in Lakeview. In January, Win Win played to rave reviews at this year’s Sundance Film Festival in Utah.

The film portrays a struggling suburban New Jersey lawyer and high school wrestling coach Mike Flaherty (played by Paul Giamatti) who takes on the responsibility of caring for an elderly client’s grandson (Alex Shaffer) after his mother enters a rehab program.

The audience soon learns that the grandson, Kyle, was once a high school wrestling star in his home state of Ohio. Flaherty puts Kyle on his team after he and his family begins caring for the teenager 

Following the screening, McCarthy, discussed aspects of the film and answered questions from audience members. McCarthy, who co-wrote "Win Win" with high school friend Joe Tiboni, talked about the emphasis on character development throughout the film.

“Sometimes I’m not as plot-driven as some directors are,” McCarthy said. “I think they approach [films] with a real strong sense of ‘This is what I want to do’ or they’re locked into a genre or they’re locked into a really specific type of story. I don’t do that as much. I do start with character and let it organically unfold from there.”

McCarthy added that one of the biggest hurdles in producing "Win Win" was casting the 16-year-old Kyle.

"I think the big thing with this movie was, ‘could that kid work?’” McCarthy said. “Could we find a kid to pull that character off because he is written very sparely and very monosyllabically. [Kyle] reminds me of a lot of 15- and 16-year-olds that I know, that just don’t give you the time of day. They don’t show anything. They just are there but they do hear everything. They do have feelings. They do know what’s going on.”

Because of the number of wrestling scenes, McCarthy held castings for actual high school wrestlers only, in order to improve the realism of the film.

“We had Alex [Shaffter] who was just so superior to us on every level,” McCarthy said. “Even his wrestling vocabulary was so extensive that he would take what we did and make it better.”

This film was Shaffer’s theatrical debut. Two weeks after being cast for the role, Shaffer actually went on to win the New Jersey state wrestling championship in his weight class.

This is McCarthy’s third film as a director. However, prior to his previous directorial efforts, "The Station Agent" and "The Visitor", he developed a successful career in film and television acting. McCarthy appeared the HBO series "The Wire"and in critically acclaimed films such as 2007’s "Michael Clayton."

McCarthy's latest film is an ode to New Providence, the suburban New Jersey town that he grew up in. 

"We wanted to portray the suburb and this particular community as a place as where this guy [lead character Mike Flarety] wants to live," he said. "It is his dream—to raise a kid, have a small business—and that’s his life and we really didn’t want to condescend that or patronize it in any way and a lot of that was through Paul’s eyes and his performance." 

"Win Win" also stars Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale and Jeffrey Tambor. The film opens nationally March 25. 

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