COMIC DRAMA; 1hr 46min
STARRING: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Alex Shaffer
Guardian angle: from left, Giamatti and Shaffer
New Jersey lawyer Mike Flaherty (Giamatti), devoted family man and co-coach (with Jeffrey Tambor) of a losing high-school wrestling squad, is feeling the financial pinch. Frankly, Mike is nudging desperate, and desperate people are prone to do rash things. Hence his decision, without consulting his accommodating wife, Jackie (Ryan), to undertake the paid guardianship of a needy — and wealthy — old man (Burt Young as Leo). And hence, indirectly, the arrival on the scene of Leo’s troubled 16-year-old grandson, Kyle (Shaffer), who happens to be a champion wrestler.
Giamatti’s rumpled twitchiness shines in intimate scenarios and they don’t come a lot more intimate than this slice of suburban life from The Visitor writer-director Tom McGrath. Not only does its leading man pull off Mike’s ethical shades of grey and keep the guy likeable but the rest of the ensemble are on their game, as well. Their characters’ actions aren’t necessarily noble, but light and shade are what reality is all about. And that’s why the smallest of true to life stories can sometimes carry the greatest weight.