Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBB.5. USA, 2011. Fox Searchlight Pictures, Everest Entertainment, Groundswell Productions, Next Wednesday Productions, Dune Entertainment. Story by Tom McCarthy, Joe Tiboni, Screenplay by Thomas McCarthy. Cinematography by Oliver Bokelberg. Produced by Lisa Maria Falcone, Michael London, Tom McCarthy, Mary Jane Skalski. Music by Lyle Workman. Production Design by John Paino. Costume Design by Melissa Toth. Film Editing by Tom McArdle. Independent Spirit Awards 2011. National Board of Review Awards 2011. Washington Film Critics Awards 2011.
Thomas McCarthy bounces back from his hokey and pretentious The Visitor for a film more reminiscent of the spry humour of his excellent debut The Station Agent. Paul Giamatti plays a small-town lawyer who also performs duties as a wrestling coach for his local high school. After representing an aging man (Burt Young) who needs home care in court, he decides to become his legal guardian in order to receive the monthly stipend that comes with his care; this is helpful since Giamatti’s practice is suffering and he is having trouble keeping up with his bills. Young, it turns out, has a grandson (Alex Shaffer) who shows up on Giamatti’s front door and is, much to the chagrin of Giamatti’s wife (Amy Ryan), taken in before becoming a star on the wrestling mat when he accompanies his new caregiver to practice. It is not long before this taciturn and strangely quiet but likeable young man becomes a fixture in this family’s home, but just as things are getting comfortable, his former drug-addict mother (Melanie Lynskey) shows up to make trouble. This shouldn’t be much of an issue except that Giamatti has made some errors in his care of Young that threaten to undermine the happy ending that should be in sight. It’s a richly acted, exceedingly pleasant experience, with McCarthy giving it a bit more naivete than can easily be swallowed (his characters veer into stereotypes quite a bit) but it’s far too satisfying to be hated for it.