WIN IT ALL proves less is more [SXSW Review]
The SXSW conference began somewhat disappointing following the disastrous premiere of Terrence Malick’s Song to Song on an overcast evening, March 10th. But in the afternoon of the following day, the popular film festival picked up tremendous speed with Joe Swanberg’s second SXSW premiere Win It All, starring Jake Johnson, Aislinn Derbez, Joe Lo Truglio and Keegan-Michael Key.
Johnson plays Eddie Garrett, a down on his luck laborer with an addiction to gambling. When a buddy headed for prison asks Eddie to watch his mysterious duffel bag and offers him $10 grand upon his future release, Eddie leaps at the fortuitous opportunity. There’s only one rule. Do not open the bag.
But Eddie’s curiosity gets the best of him and he discovers the bag is full of cash. Naturally, he gambles a ton of it away.
“You’re addicted to losing,” claims Eddie’s addiction sponsor, played by Keegan-Michael Key. Eddie, recognizing his problem, finally begins getting his life in order, including finally accepting a landscaping job working for his older brother, played by Joe Lo Truglio.
Eddie also meets Eva, a single mother and nurse played by Aislinn Derbez. Eva inspires the better parts of Eddie, which keeps him focused and working hard to repay his self-inflicted duffel bag debt and to repair the relationships around him. He’s basically kicked his habit.
But all good things come to an end when Eddie’s jailhouse friend receives an early release. Eddie hasn’t finished repaying his unauthorized loan and gets desperate. He attempts to win it all back.
Swanberg, working within his usual micro-budgets, does plenty things right in 90 minutes. Much of that success is attributed to story focus and overall restraint. It doesn’t fall into typical Hollywood tropes because it adheres to a singular purpose: deliver an original story, told my talented and humorous players. Jake Johnson, who co-wrote the script with Swanberg, is absolutely great. The banter between characters is hilarious and never overstays it’s welcome. You won’t find glitzy Hollywood effects or dramatic set pieces. You get focused filmmaking and pleasant performances. The real winner is the audience.
Win It All premieres on NETFLIX this April 7.
Below are images from the red carpet premiere of Win It All, featuring principle cast members.