- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Win It All

| April 28, 2017

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Win It All.

If you have ever talked to me about filmmakers that I can’t stand, the name Joe Swanberg would be the first for me to mention. I’m not going to dance around the subject matter and say some things about how it’s just my opinion and that there is some merit to his work. Joe Swanberg is the most revolting filmmaker I think I have ever found. His name is attached to some of the worst indie films I have ever seen and his presence in the film community genuinely makes me mad. Every other film he has made is consistently in the worst films made that year. And I genuinely only think he continues to make films because he is friends with C-List actors who agree to be in his bad films. Overall I am not a fan of Joe Swanberg and I walk into all of his films expecting to absolutely hate every minute of his work.

That being said I kind of liked Win It All. Which is honestly really shocking to me. Almost to the point where it took me a few days to watch it all the way through because I think it awoke something in me and has caused me to lose my mind. But yeah. Let’s talk about how I kind of liked Win It All.

I’m going to try to avoid talking about Swanberg’s other filmography in this review and try to keep it as strictly on this film as I can, but understand if I begin to sway. Win It All tell the story of Eddie, a recovering gambling addict who is given 20 thousand dollars in cash to look over while his old acquaintance is in prison. Then, as expected, he gambles it all away and needs to get the money back before the other guy gets out of prison. So it is kind of a standard gambling film. It follows all of the tropes you see in other, and frankly better, gambling addiction or gambling based films.

Where this film succeeds is in the fact that despite it being kind of stereotypical in terms of telling a gambling story, it gives a much lighter and happier tone. This can be viewed as both a positive and a negative. I have seen some critics say that it is the feel good addiction movie that some people were wanting. But at the same time I have to ask myself do we really need a feel good addiction film? Is that not damaging and taking away from the actual issue of addiction? And I will say that not all of the film is happy go lucky. But that is kind of also a problem. For pretty much the entire film, everything just kind of works out. There is never any tension. You just see this guy get is life together. So when the big conflict comes up and the scene where things are suppose to show the darker side of gambling addiction, you don’t feel anything. There was no tension to the scene because leading up to this point everything worked out so I had a feeling that everything was going to work out. And I’m not going to spoil the film, but you can probably guess that the film doesn’t end with him ruining his life.

Another point I would like to compliment the film on is the performance by Jake Johnson, who plays the main character. I’m not in the boat that a lot of people have saying that he is going to be the next big thing. It’s possible but I don’t see that level of potential in him. That being said, Johnson does give a very strong performance in the film. He does have a charming personality to him, and I would argue that he carries this entire film on his shoulders. Mainly because besides his performance, everything else is just okay. That being said the only time I was not a fan of his performance was, unfortunately the climax of the film, where I did not believe a single thing that he said or did. But I can ignore that as the rest of the performance is quite good.

Some people have called Joe Swanberg a modern day John Cassavetes, which is understandable, but also just plain wrong. Joe Swanberg has the enthusiasm and motivation to be this generations John Cassavetes, without any of the talent or merit. Every single Joe Swanberg film looks either uninspired, Happy Christmas and Drinking Buddies, or just straight garbage, Silver Bullets and 24 Exposures. The one exception to this rule being Digging For Fire, which is actually well shot despite the rest of the film being mediocre. This film, unfortunately also follows the same pattern. Win It All looks absolutely horrible. When I watched the trailer I wondered how something going to Netflix could look so bad, until I saw Swanberg’s name on it and it made more sense. It is really a bummer as if the cinematography was done better and there was less grain in every single shot and the framing actually added something to the film, this could be an actually fantastic film. But at the end, the cinematography is what brings this film down to being a standard Swanberg film.

Despite everything I have said, I do like this film, which is more than I can say for everything else in Joe Swanberg’s filmography. And even though I hate a lot of his work, I can’t really hate the man. I’ve watched a couple interviews with the guy and I have seen a keynote that he presented. And at the end of the day Joe Swanberg seems like a really great guy. He loves what he does, he loves making movies and he has a huge passion for filmmaking. And I deeply admire that. I just really wish his films were better. With that being said Win It All is a huge step in the right direction. To the point where I might walk into his next film a bit more optimistic. Because deep down I want him to succeed. Because who knows, maybe he is the next John Cassavetes.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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