Dialogue Review – Win Win

Allen: For the most part, I agree with what you said about the performances. I think that Giamatti and Ryan are great, and Canavale is especially good as Terry, stealing nearly every scene he is in with his hilarity. Even Burt Young is effective with his role, which is small but works as the catalyst of the entire film. Where I’m going to have to slightly disagree with you is with Alex Shaffer. Yes, in the beginning of the movie his detachment added to the awkwardly comedic moments of him trying to integrate with Mike’s family. For awhile, I thought this was some great acting, but when Shaffer was required to evoke some of the more emotionally intense parts of the story, he still felt detached, instead of a part of what was happening.

Another issue I’d like to point out is the climax, or should I say lack of a climax. I won’t spoil it, but the film builds and builds to this big confrontation between Mike, Kyle, and Kyle’s mother, and then all of a sudden is resolved almost immediately. Our expectation is for this big moment which never comes because of the convenience of the writing, a deus ex machina in every sense of the term.

Brandi: Every sense of the term, huh? I must have missed the part where a god literally came from a machine…No, jokes aside, I do get your point. But, I would argue that the actual climactic question was about the family’s relationship with Kyle, and not about the scene you’re referring to. To say more would be getting into spoiler territory, so we’ll just have to say that I was okay with the way things wrapped up, much more so than you were. And we’ll also have to agree to disagree as far as Shaffer’s acting as emotions ramp up in the second half of the film—I definitely felt that it worked. For Kyle/Shaffer to have become any more outwardly emotional and communicative than he was would have really rang false. The writing and the acting walked a fine line very well, I thought.

Allen: Perhaps I should have said in the “cinematic” sense of the term. In regard to Shaffer’s acting, I don’t think it was as great as you did, but I didn’t think it was such a hindrance that it actually brought the film down. In the end, I think this is a solid film, well made all around. I wouldn’t say it’s a great movie—I think there are moments that crossed that fine line you mentioned—but I can easily look over that because the aspects that were good about it were very good.

Brandi: There’s something I really, really enjoy about Thomas McCarthy’s style and approach. His films talk about everyday routines and the realities of unglamorous life, but without ever saying “oh, we’re all so complacent and boring and our lives mean nothing,” the way so many films about everyday life seem to say. His characters are enriched by unexpected connections with people who are different than them, but the message isn’t “break out of your boxes, idiots!” It’s “be good to each other and sometimes good things will happen.”

Allen: I’ll agree that I enjoyed the approach that Thomas McCarthy brought with this material. The film doesn’t have that “too indie for its own good” kind of feel, but seems to take place within a world that appears naturalistic and real. I would definitely recommend this as a strong, yet not perfect story for people to see. It’s entertaining, funny, and engaging. While I don’t know if I’d want to revisit it anytime soon, I did enjoy it while I was watching it.

Brandi: I’m gonna say that this is one I definitely will be revisiting in the future.

Final Grades:
Allen: B
Brandi: A-

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Brandi is one of those people who worries about kids these days not appreciating black and white films. She also admires great moments of subtlety, since she has no idea how to be subtle herself.

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