The answer to yesterday's Movie mashup was a fun coincidence of two movies I've seen on DVD recently, Win win and In Time. The first is an uplifting drama starring Paul Giamatti and the other is a sci-fi thriller starring Justin Timberlake, Cillian Murphy and Amanda Seyfried.
In Win Win, Giamatti is a lawyer who can't make ends meet with his job. His office is falling apart and bills are mounting. He's not a bad person, but when he sees the opportunity to take advantage of one of his elderly clients, Leo, he can't help but take it. Does he hurt anyone? No. Is it completely unethical and relatively immoral to agree to take care of an old man and then put him a home and take the money for taking care of him. OH YEAH. But it's not like Giamatti is going to get rich off of it, just make ends meet. However, he's nearly outed when Leo's grandson, Kyle, comes to live with him - and agrees to let Kyle stay with him and his family (Amy Ryan is his wife). It turns out Kyle is a wrestling prodigy, and Giamatti happens to be the high school losing wrestling coach. Kyle stays with Giamatti's family and joins the wrestling team, beginning to turn around some of those kids. Jeffrey Tambor and Bobby Cannavale are the assistant coaches and none of them ever know what to do with the kids they've got on the team until Kyle arrives and gives them all confidence. I think this is the moment when the title makes the most sense - Giamatti is taking money from Kyle's grandfather, but taking good care of Kyle, and the wrestling team is starting to win, and Kyle seems happy.
Then Kyle's mom, Melanie Lynsky, arrives to screw everything up. Before seeing Heavenly Creatures for our Kate Winslet episode, and seeing Lynsky as a deranged homicidal teenager, this part would have seemed like a stretch. However, the screwed up mother who really just wants to take of her dad for the money makes a lot more sense and is well within her wheelhouse. She starts to figure out that Giamatti is getting a ton of money that she's entitled to if she takes care of her dad. She doesn't really care about her son, Kyle, but really wants the money. Because Giamatti is a good guy at heart, he does finally fix the situation.
I would watch Giamatti play characters like this forever. He plays a ton of mean, gritty, shlubby, depressed characters, but this is one of my favorite performances he's given. He's doing as much wrong as he's doing right, but somehow the right outweighs the bad. There's a fair amount of comedy throughout the film, and it's a terrific look at a small group of characters that really only need the spark of hope that Kyle's wrestling provides to reach for more in their own lives. I like this more and more thinking back on it.
Strangely, looking back at In Time, which I really liked immediately afterward, it doesn't hold up for long. The concept is a wonderfully original take on a classic theme of immortality - everyone lives until they're 25, then they start to spend down on the one year of time beyond that they're given. You can earn time at work, you pay debts with hours and days. It's all counting down on your forearm. When you're out of time, you just drop dead. You can steal time from other people by holding hands in a particular way too - so having LOTS of time on your arm is basically asking to be robbed. At least in the ghetto district where Justin Timberlake lives with his mom, Olivia Wilde (remember no one ages past 25). One night Timberlake meets a guy, Matt Bomer, who has over a century on his arm. Usually people with that much time stay in their own rich, protect district. But Bomer has lived for a very long time and has had enough. In the middle of the night he gives Timberlake his century and jumps off a bridge.
Now, Timberlake does what most people would do with a ton of money, he gives some away, he plays around with it, buying fancy things, etc. But he also realizes that the system is corrupt, and people with lots of time will never die while people in the ghetto are dying every day. He kidnaps wealthy Amanda Seyfried and they go on a Bonnie and Clyde spree robbing banks and giving time back to the poor.
Very little information is given about how this world came to be. We're led to believe it wasn't always this way, but the explanation is weak. As it should be - how else would you explain this ridiculous world? One of the best things about the movie is that it's incredibly consistent. The time = money issue is explored thoroughly, but without cliche. Timberlake is fascinating to watch and does a great job carrying the film. Seyfried is good as the poor little rich girl who has no idea what it's like to be afraid you won't wake up in the morning. Cillian Murphy is the "timekeeper" (= policeman) who has to track down and get Seyfried back, but more importantly, stop the bank heists.