With Director Tom McCarthy’s third film after The Station Agent and The Visitor, he falters slightly here with his latest film. Admittedly those were high standards, and I say falters somewhat based on those standards. A moral tale for our times about the struggle for survival and making choices, but the film is marred by ultimately being wrapped up with a too tight feel-good bow.
Mike Flaherty is a lawyer struggling for clients and having to deal with the vicissitudes of every day life: a tree that needs to be cut down, a toilet that keep needing plunging, a boiler that needs replacing. When he fibs in court about a guardianship, he’s taken maybe the first baby step south of his true north moral compass. Leo Poplar has plenty of money, but is descending into dementia. He has a daughter that he has not heard from in twenty years. Into the breach, Mike. It’s a win-win. Then one day Kyle shows up on their doorstep, Leo’s grandson that he didn’t know he had.
The Flaherty’s take Kyle in and grow fond of him. Mike doubles as the high school wrestling coach and discovers that Kyle was a state wrestling champion back home. Things are whizzing along happily until the mother, out of rehab, shows up to claim her son, her father, and her father’s money – not necessarily in that order.
Paul Giamatti plays Mike Flaherty with the slumped shoulders of the weight of the world, and Amy Ryan is his level-headed rock of a wife, Jackie Flaherty. Bobby Cannavale is Terry Delfino, a long time friend of Mike’s and still obsessed with the affairs of his ex. Jeffrey Tambor is Mike’s partner (and assistant wrestling coach), Stephen Vigman. Burt Young plays Leo Poplar with a sweet unconcern. The cast is competent, professional, but not particularly spectacular – or memorable, though I always am impressed with Ryan. Alex Shaffer as Kyle, on the other hand, was obviously chosen for his wrestling skills – ‘cuz he sure can’t act a lick.
Overrated, and not up to McCarthy’s scratch game.