A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
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
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.
Violence & Scariness
A teenage boy shoves another; he also yells at an adult. Adults yell and argue.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
Some sexual innuendo.
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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.
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Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
One character is a former addict in the early stages of recovery. Some social drinking.
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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. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
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.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.