Thomas McCarthy was a busy character actor before turning that experience to his advantage as writer-director of The Station Agent (2003) and The Visitor (2007); both movies profited from his patient character development and adroit casting. Those virtues are evident in this third feature too, though McCarthy falters in creating some key performances. The leads couldn't be better: Paul Giamatti is a failing small-town attorney who coaches a high school wrestling team on the side, and Amy Ryan is his tartly judgmental wife. But the story, which turns on the lawyer's ethical corner-cutting, introduces three supporting characters that don't quite click: a demented old man who pays the attorney a handsome stipend to be his legal guardian (Burt Young); the man's estranged and drug-addicted daughter, who wants the money for herself (chipper Melanie Lynskey, miscast here); and her runaway son, a championship wrestler (Alex Shaffer, too affectless to justify the love his character supposedly inspires). Those flaws notwithstanding, this is still a thoughtful and admirably nuanced moral drama.
Director: Tom McCarthy
Producer: Mary Jane Skalski, Michael London, Lisa Falcone, Lori Douglas and Tom Heller
Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Burt Young, Melanie Lynskey, Alex Shaffer, Margo Martindale, David Thompson, Mike Diliello, Nina Arianda, Marcia Haufrecht, Sharon Wilkins, Clare Foley, Penelope Kindred, Sophie Kindred and Tim Ransom