TV Review - Win It All

This is the third feature by director Joe Swanberg and actor Jake Johnson. It's the second, co-writing collaboration between the two who clearly have a simpatico or are just straight, good friends. Their style of humor is very naturalistic and easygoing like you're literally hanging out with two drinking buddies. Johnson is undeniably amiable, but he and Swanberg seem to think that's enough to sustain a feature-length movie.

Johnson stars as Eddie Garrett, a gambling addict in Chicago who gets a job with his brother's landscaping business in order to pay back a 5-digit, gambling debt. He and his brother had a tense relationship but they joke around with each other and get along pretty well. He meets a Mexican nurse named Eva who is a single mom. Eddie starts dating her and it's a nice, easygoing romance. The movie is then just a series of low-key scenes of funny interactions of Eddie and the various people he encounters.

What prompts the narrative is when a friend leaves Eddie a bag full of cash and Eddie is told not to open the bag. Of course, Eddie does open the bag and gambles away all the cash inside. When the friend returns from prison, he wants the bag back. Eddie worries if this friend will hurt or kill him and if he'll have to leave town and abandon Eva and his brother Ron.

It's an interesting premise that's well told and well acted for the most part. The ending is confusing though. I'm not sure what the takeaway is meant to be regarding gambling. Initially, and for the majority of the time, we're led to believe gambling is bad and that gambling is causing Eddie ruin, but the solution that Swanberg and Johnson concoct is even more gambling.

That's like a person having alcoholism who solves his problems by binge drinking. It makes no sense. It's contradictory. Eddie definitely looks scared and he becomes terrified he will lose everything, including his life, and Johnson gives a great performance. It might be in fact Johnson's best performance. Despite his character making wrong decisions, Johnson is charming enough that one still roots for him.

The ending follows through with Johnson's likability and allows him to get away with his crimes so-to-speak. He has a happy ending basically without suffering any real consequences. Just because you don't want his character to lose doesn't mean he should get away with it. It's not that he should have died, but his gambling away his friend's money is something about which he never tells the truth. He never confesses to Eva or Ron what he did, which feels like a cop out.

Rated TV-MA.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 28 mins.


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