Structure: 3/5 | Entertainment: 4/5
In an effort to take better care of his family (Story Goal - Doing) Protagonist lawyer Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) sets the trouble of this story into motion with his decision to take on stewardship of the aging Leo Poplar (Burt Young) (Story Driver - Decision). Concerned with how badly things are going for him and his practice (MC Concern - Progress), Mike thinks only of protecting his family (MC Issue - Security) and thus, has no problem taking Leo’s stipend and putting the old man in a rest home (MC Problem - Effect).
The story really kicks into gear when Leo’s grandson and Impact Character Kyle (Alex Shaffer) arrives. Coming complete with the presence of mind needed to force Mike to reevaluate his life (Impact Character Domain - Fixed Attitude), Kyle’s self-assuredness shocks Mike into some seriously needed character growth (Impact Character Issue - Confidence). Kyle’s explanation for how he was able to break free from the wrestle hold—“Whatever the fuck it takes”—is precisely the sort of thing Mike needs to hear (Impact Character Problem - Theory).
The relationship between the two principals, however, lacks the kind of emotional development needed for this crucial fourth throughline. There is one great scene—the same scene found in the trailer—where Mike asks “What’s it like to be as good as you are?” (Relationship Story Concern - Being). But that’s it - that’s the only scene like that. The result is that Mike’s final change (MC Resolve - Change) comes off a bit formulaic. The storyform calls for it, but the story real estate wasn’t there to support it. At a scant running time of 104 minutes, the Authors probably could have eeked out a couple extra scenes to really dive in to the relationship between Mike and Kyle.
Still, Mike’s decision to finally man up and grab a second job (MC Solution - Cause) feels like the right thing to do and brings a wonderful sense of relief to the hapless lawyer’s struggle (MC Judgment - Good). Looking past the actual structure, best friend Terry Delfino (Bobby Cannavale) adds some great humor to help lighten up this otherwise heavy character piece.
Change, Stop, Do-er, Male, Decision, Optionlock, Success, Good, Physics, Doing, Skill, Effect