Paul Giamatti‘s newest movie opens up today. It’s called Win Win.
I saw it at Sundance this year and enjoyed it. Alex Shaffer, Giamatti’s young costar (pictured), is particularly fun to watch. But after the film ended came the Q&A, where director Thomas McCarthy explained his casting of Paul as the lead. Lucky for him, the two were already friends. But the actor was hesitant to take on the role of Mike Flaherty, because he wasn’t sure he could handle it. He said something to the effect of “Mike is happy. I can’t do happy.”
This comment through me into a tailspin: Paul Giamatti is supposed to be happy in this movie? I never once considered the fact that he was a satisfied man. Mostly because he’s Paul Giamatti. And in Win Win, he plays a desperate suburban dad who tricks the state into making him a client’s legal guardian for the monthly income it will send his way. Things go awry (surprise) and Paul’s character Mike finds himself watching over his client’s teenage son Kyle (Shaffer), who happens to be an excellent wrestler.
Win Win is an interesting little film. The director was right: it’s not simply a scene study in the oppression of the suburbs, like most Hollywood films set there. But I had no inkling that Paul was supposed to be fulfilled in this movie. In one of his first scenes, he has a panic attack while running. His job is depressingly slow, and his coworker Stephen (Jeffrey Tambor) convinces him that instead of fixing their broken boiler, they should come to work each day with the subtle expectation that it might blow up underneath them .
But then I got to thinking: Maybe it is my own bias that prevents me from seeing a character played by Paul Giamatti as satisfied. Maybe I’ve misread every role he’s ever been in.
Is Paul Giamatti just happy if you say he’s happy? I dunno! Let’s see how that assessment works on his other acting work.