Sunday, May 15, 2011

Win, Win

I wrestled in Junior High and High School. To say that wrestling did not receive the same kind of attention as football or basketball would be an understatement. We didn’t get as many fans as track or girl’s volleyball. Maybe even the Dungeons and Dragons Club.

During my Piner High years, the drill team was forced to attend. On more than one occasion I heard the reaction of certain girls on the team to the sweaty, six minutes of grabbling on the mat as “yuck” rather than “yeah”.

So I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that the film, “Win, Win”, which is partially about high school wrestling has not done boffo box office. But it is a good film and only partially about wresting.

Mainly it is the story of a struggling lawyer, Mike Flarety, (Paul Giamatti of the excellent “John Adams” mini-series) who takes on the guardianship of an old man, Leo, (Burt Young from the Rocky films) primarily for the money. Instead of giving personal care to Leo, Mike puts the man into a nursing home.

The lawyer’s wife, Jackie, (Amy Ryan of “The Wire” and “The Office”) becomes aware the guardianship only when the old man’s grandson, Kyle, (Alex Shaffer from nothing else, but he does a great job) shows up on the porch of the old man’s house. Mike and Jackie decide to take Kyle into their home.

Mike has an another job as the high school wrestling coach of a very bad team. He discovers that Kyle is a very good wrestler. So good that he might turn the team’s fortunes around.

When Leo’s daughter (Kyle’s mother) shows up unexpectedly, complications ensue.

Throughout the film, questions of motivation keep cropping up.

Does Mike agree to look after Leo only for the money, or does he care about the crazy old guy?

Does Mike care about Kyle just because he’s a needy, likable kid, or because he’s a great wrestler?

Is Leo’s daughter looking to get her family back together, or is she just there for her father’s money?

If we are honest with ourselves, most of our choices in life are made with a variety of motives, from altruistic to selfish. The apostle Paul often wrote about our mixed motives in ministry.

In Philippians chapter 1, Paul wrote: “15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill…18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.”

Here Paul seems to be saying, I don’t care about the motives, as long as the Gospel is preached, good is done.

And yet the same guy writes in the famous Love Chapter, I Corinthians 13, “2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.”

So which is it Paul, do motives matter, or not?

In “Win, Win”, we see the consequences of bad choices made from good motives, and some good choices made with bad motives. And fortunately, how love and forgiveness can redeem both.

This film, written and directed by Thomas McCarthy (“The Visitor” and “The Station Agent”) is rated R for language (including swearing by minors, something that personally annoys me greatly in films, it hasn't been funny since "The Bad News Bears") and brief, unappealing nudity (a mooning). (But it also portrays a strong marriage and church as a normal part of life. Both rare and worthy sites in contemporary films.)

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