Win Win

Movie review by
S. Jhoanna Robledo, Common Sense Media
Win Win Movie Poster Image
Mature dramedy triumphs with grace and wisdom.
  • R
  • 2011
  • 106 minutes

Parents say

age 13+
Based on 4 reviews

Kids say

age 12+
Based on 3 reviews

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this movie.

Positive Messages

The movie's main message is that even though the best intentioned among us can make bad decisions, those decisions can be undone by good intentions and -- better yet -- honest follow-through. Also, inspiration comes from surprising sources.

Positive Role Models & Representations

Kyle may be rough around the edges, but he’s principled and seeking improvement. Mike’s wise because of his years, though not wise enough to avoid making poor choices. But he’s a stand-up guy who cleans up his own mess. Mike’s wife knows how to support those she loves without losing herself.


A teenage boy shoves another; he also yells at an adult. Adults yell and argue.


Some sexual innuendo.


Language includes several uses of "f--k," plus “s--t” (uttered by a child at one point), "hell," "damn," "ass," "a--hole," "crap," "goddamn," "oh my God," and more.

Drinking, Drugs & Smoking

One character is a former addict in the early stages of recovery. Some social drinking.

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that this excellent indie dramedy offers lots of wisdom, examining characters caught at the crossroads of mid-life through clear lenses that are refreshingly unburdened by clichés. Yes, there’s plenty of swearing ("f--k," "s--t," etc.) and some mature themes -- including a mother's drug addiction, which sends her teenage boy adrift, hungering for structure and safety. But there are also plenty of stand-up characters who, despite their flaws, make you believe in a world of hope and optimism.

User Reviews

  • Parents say
  • Kids say
Parent of a 14-year-old Written bysetsie1 October 27, 2011

If your kid has ridden the bus to middle school they've heard this word.

I have no problem with my 12 year old watching this movie. The violence isn't overly graphic. The language while coarse, isn't used abusively. Nothing... Continue reading
Parent Written bydricelo August 15, 2011

Nice and interesting

Some famous industry products being used by the characters.
Teen, 14 years old Written byshawshank96 September 10, 2011


I saw Win Win earlier this year and it was an incredible movie. Tremendously acted. However, there is a lot of language and some emotional issues, although, the... Continue reading
Teen, 13 years old Written byorangetiger June 14, 2011

Inspiring and unexpected

Pretty good movie. The only reason it was rated R was because of the language it used, and it wasn't very violent at all, really. Not what you'd expec... Continue reading

What's the story?

Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is a good guy. A lawyer with a struggling practice, he’s intent on supporting his wife (Amy Ryan) and kids, encouraging the forlorn high school wrestlers (they don't win) that he coaches after work, listening to his friend Terry (Bobby Cannavale) ride the emotional roller coaster of his recent divorce, and protecting the interests of his too-few clients. Still, money’s been tight, so when a paid opportunity to be the guardian of Leo (Burt Young) -- a retiree in early stages of dementia -- presents itself, Mike steps into the role. He thinks it ought to be fairly simple: He’ll take the money but put Leo into a home, where he’ll be cared for properly -- never mind that Leo isn’t too keen on the idea. Then one day, Leo’s teenage grandson, Kyle (Alex Shaffer), shows up on his grandpa’s doorstep, eager to get away from his drug-addicted mother. And he’s a champion wrestler, too. Kyle's appearance is a complication that adds to the list of responsibilities weighing heavily on Mike’s already weary shoulders.

Is it any good?

Director Tom McCarthy knows exactly what to say and how to say it; WIN WIN is confidently told, and every moment informs another to come. Mike looks like he’s running strong in the first sequence, and we think all is well -- clearly, this is a self-improving man. But soon enough we see him gasping in the dust of surer-footed sprinters. At work, the boiler tolls like a doomsday bell. All is not well. The men in this movie are struggling -- and so are the women. And though their struggles are familiar (the economy, divorce, work boredom), the way they struggle is delightfully unexpected.

And that's not just because Giamatti plays bereft without any cliches and Ryan does an excellent job as a supportive wife without the usual treacle; the rest of the cast is pretty awesome, too. At many junctures, Win Win could have taken a losing (or boring) turn, but it just refuses to. A lesser movie would have had Mike take his scheme further into slapsticky territory, or the troubled Kyle hook up with a classmate who brings formulaic joy to his life, or Terry bed Mike’s secretary as a way to fish himself out of his post-separation disquiet. But leave that to the amateurs and unimaginative.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about the movie's messages. What do you take away from watching?

  • Are the characters in the movie intended to be role models? What do they learn over the course of the story?

  • What does the movie say about male friendships? About marriage?

Movie details

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