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Swanberg’s Win It All
there a more destructive addiction than gambling? Instead of a mere hangover,
compulsive gamblers can find themselves deeply in debt to leg-breakers. Eddie
Garrett is exactly that sort of loser. In fact, his Gambling Anonymous sponsor tells
him straight out he is addicted to losing. When Garrett really, really gets in
over his head, he finally starts to clean up his act. However, just as he
starts to appreciate the straight life an enormous karma bill come due in Joe
Swanberg’s Win It All (trailer here), which debuts on
Netflix this Friday.
is in debt to just about everyone, except Michael, the scary looking criminal
waiting for him in his apartment. Instead of a painful collection, Michael is
there to offer him an easy gig. While he is serving a short prison term,
Garrett will babysit a mysterious duffle bag. As long as he resists temptation,
he makes an easy ten grand when Michael returns.
course, the bag is stuffed with cash, as well as other rather ominous looking implements.
It is just as certain Garrett will peak inside and start using the money to
fund his losing streaks, despite his sponsor’s best efforts to talk some sense
into him. Garrett will have one lucky night with the duffle bag money, so
naturally he celebrates with his schlubby buddies. As fate would have it, he also
meets Eva, an attractive RN, who should be way out of his league.
to form, Garrett subsequently starts to lose Michael’s money, to the tune of $20K
or so. The repercussions of this potential shortfall are sufficiently dire to
scare him straight. He accepts a job at his brother’s landscaping company and
finds he almost enjoys working like a responsible adult. Concurrently, he
manages to develop a serious relationship with Eva. However, all his progress
might be for naught when Garrett learn Michael Duffle Bag will be getting out
of prison months early.
though WIA has an appealingly grungy,
lived-in vibe, it is light years more polished than the early Mumblecore that initially
made Swanberg’s name. Essentially, he and Jake Johnson, his recent co-writer
and star of choice, have combined the rom-com with the gambling caper. Yet,
unlike Rounders and scores of
card-sharking films, they really see redemption in everyday, responsible life.
Having a job and a girlfriend (especially a gorgeous one) are good things. They
also shrewdly use the gritty streets and back alleys of Chicago as vivid
is terrific as Garrett and he develops winning chemistry with all the major
players. Mexican actress Aislinn Derbez is utterly charming, but completely grounded
as Eva, the single-mother nurse he really doesn’t deserve. Johnson and Joe Lo
Truglio bicker and kvetch together so convincingly, we can totally believe they
are brothers with years of difficult shared history together. However, the funniest
scenes focus on Garrett trying to fast-talk his undeluded sponsor, played with
acerbic attitude and surprising gravitas by Keegan-Michael Key (in what might
be his best dramatic performance to date).
It All would work as well as most of Swanberg’s films on the big screen, if
not better, but as a Netflix original feature it should generate word of mouth
faster and more widely. Granted, Swanberg and Johnson incorporate many of the
conventions of gambling movies, but they twist them around, upside down. The
result is a hugely entertaining film both Swanberg fans and general audiences
should embrace when Win It All starts
streaming on Netflix this Friday (4/7).
Labels: Joe Swanberg, Netflix