I’ve just seen two totally unpretentious movies, both delightful, both not trying to do more than the stories called for: Win Win with Paul Giamatti and Our Idiot Brother, with Paul Rudd. Both films were quietly funny in telling quiet stories about semi-loser males who quietly win in the end.
Paul Giamatti plays a not so successful lawyer who also serves as an assistant coach of the local high school wrestling team, a team that, like him, can’t seem to do anything right. Then a young man shows up on one of his client’s doorstep. Leo, the client, is an aging man in the first stages of dementia. All Leo wants to do is go home, but when Mike (Giamatti) finds out that he could get $1500 a month for taking charge of Leo, instead of letting him go home, he puts him in assisted living. The young man, Kyle, is Leo’s grandson, and has run away from a mother who doesn’t want him. Mike takes the boy to his house, where he lets him stay until they can find his mother to take him back. But the boy refuses to return. The mother, played by Margo Martindale (Rose, from Two-and-a-Half Men, one of my all time favorite characters) wants only Leo’s $1500 a month, but not Leo. Mike enrolls Kyle in the high school and soon discovers that the boy had taken second in his weight class in California wrestling. He gets him on the team and the team responds to his leadership and begins to win a few matches. The story unfolds with no surprises but with a stellar performance by Giamatti.
Paul Rudd, in Our Idiot Brother, is about as idiotic as a fox. He’s a man completely without guile, one who, as one of the sisters says, loves unconditionally. And the object of his love is Willie Nelson, a dog who is kept by his ex-live-in who owns an organic vegetable farm. Stumbling from one inadvertent mess to another, Ned (Rudd) manages to fix most of the problems his sisters have, and in the end seems to have fixed his own, making and selling homemade candles. He says to his co-candler Bert (the new boyfriend of Ned’s ex), “There’s no such thing as an ugly homemade candle.” There are a good many laughable lines, exemplified by what Ned says to his parole officer as he explains how his life is going: “I even smoked a joint with my buddy.” Omar, the parole officer says, throwing up his hands, “I didn’t hear what you just said.” So Ned says it again. Zooey Deschanel, one of the sisters, was the female lead in (500) Days of Summer, a film with an ending that echoes the ending to Our Idiot Brother, when Ned meets a woman and her dog, a dog felicitously named Dolly Parton.
I think these two movies are exactly what the title of the Giamatti film suggests, a win and a win.