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The last couple of years have been an amazing time for me, both professionally and personally.   A few years ago, one of my oldest and closest friends, Tom McCarthy (Writer/Director of The Station Agent, The Visitor), asked me to write a script with him.  We worked together for over two years and the end result is a film entitled “Win Win”.  Win Win is a Fox Searchlight and Everest Entertainment Production, starring Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Burt Young, Jeffrey Tambor and Alex Shafer.  The movie is due out in theaters on March 18, 2011.

For those that may not know, I am a practicing Elder Law and Estate Planning Attorney with offices located in New Providence, NJ (which happens to be the same location as Mike Flaherty’s office, the lead character in Win Win).  I love practicing law in the area of Elder Law and Estate Planning, which I plan to do into the foreseeable future (so no, I have no plans to go to Hollywood and leave my practice).

For those who have not seen the movie, you may want to stop here before reading about the similarities between Mike and me, I don’t want to ruin anything for you.  For those of you who would like to know some cool trivia feel free to read on.

HOW I’M LIKE MIKE

The movie is loosely based on some of my experiences as an elder law and estate planning attorney in New Providence.  Some of these facts will make more sense after you see the movie.

Like Mike, I live in New Providence, have two daughters (who happen to be the same age as Abbie and Stella in the movie).  My real house looks just like my “movie house” and my real office looks like my “movie office”.   I also patronize Dunkin Donuts (sometimes too regularly).  One of my daughters has an angel hanging in her window (however it never spontaneously exploded like in the movie). When I talk too long after church, my wife calls me Mr. Mayor.

I had a Green Subaru Outback (the Green Hornet), which unfortunately died on the way to a Springsteen Concert last year. The green ski jacket that Mike wears throughout the movie is based on my ski jacket that I bought at the Sundance Film Festival in 2008 – I liked bragging about it and Tom thought this was funny.   I also had an 18 year old cousin from Italy show up on my doorstep after she was politely asked to leave her exchange program in Texas.  Therefore, I can relate to how Mike initially feels about Kyle.  I have a giant tree whose name is Handsome Otis.  He lives in my front yard and I’d love to cut down, but I can’t for legal reasons.  I decided to name him Handsome Otis because it humanized him and was healthier than hating him.  Now we are at peace with each other, even though he purposely drops pine needles and sap on my car and laughs at me.

I had a boiler in my office, but it blew up and shot water all over my first floor, ruining the rugs and creating a toxic mold condition.  I never named my furnace and maybe that was the problem.   I love to clean my keyboard and my office when I’m bored.  Although I consider myself a good person, my wife is definitely a much better person than I am.  I also have been known to plunge my own toilets at the office.

Tom McCarthy and I also wrestled on the same New Providence Pioneer wrestling team that is a focal point of the movie.  Tom quit and I should have also.  The sign in the movie (If you can read this you’re pinned), unfortunately it was all too real and I read it way too many times.  Although I was not as good a wrestler as Kyle, I wrestled many kids who were.  Apparently, they were drawn to my weight class and me.  I think they were trying to pad their records.  There is a scene where Stemmler is trying to crawl off the mat to avoid further pummeling, that was one of my signature moves.

HOW I’M NOT LIKE MIKE

Unlike Mike, I never took on a guardianship and placed a client in a Nursing Home against his or her will.  Additionally, unlike the movie, I am partners in my law practice with my wife, Jane Carro Tiboni, and I am happy to report that our practice is doing exceptionally well.  Lastly, my daughters do not curse, at least not in front of me, but my sister, when she was three, stood up in the car and said “shitten traffic”.  Being the son of Newark Police Officer, none of us had ever heard such vulgarities and we were appalled.    I do not smoke.  Also, I have never had a client whose son kidnapped his cat.  We did however have a client that paid Jane with a blanket made, in part, from her cat’s hair.  She explained to Jane that is why the blanket was so very soft.  Both of my parents are still alive.  The wrestling team that Tom and I were on was extremely good and the current New Providence team is also.  My legal assistant does not have a wicked New Jersey accent, she is from Virginia.

One of the main reasons Win Win has been such an incredibly fun and rewarding experience for me, is that I was able to discuss a topic that Jane and I find incredibly compelling, the rights of the Elderly.  Although Win Win is a comedy, we sought to illustrate a social phenomenon which is mostly an American one, namely the use of Nursing Homes to care for elderly family members who would otherwise prefer be in their own homes.  I want to make it clear that there is a place for Nursing Homes in our society and many of my clients clearly need such care.  To me, however, all other options should be explored before taking that final step of placing a family member in a Nursing Home.   (My parents made me say that…but I do believe it).  I really hope however the movie draws attention to this area of the law and opens up a dialogue about this issue and many others that affect the elderly.

On a lighter note, Win Win also was an opportunity for Tom and me to relive our inglorious days as high school wrestlers for New Providence High School.  Tom was a scrappy little shrimp.  For the record though, between Tom and me, I was clearly the more accomplished wrestler (because I wrestled more matches).  I always wrestled incredibly well and more importantly, I looked really stylish in my green singlet. My sister told me I looked like a green bean, partly because I wore green and partly because I just lied there, until I was inevitably and sadly pinned.  By the way, I can’t think of many more humiliating situations in high school sports than having to wear a singlet, effectively get beat-up by another guy wearing a singlet and then ultimately getting pinned for all my friends, family and once potential girlfriends to witness.  Wrestling made for some unwanted drama in my life as a high school student, but now I find it brings nothing, but laughs, at least that’s what therapy has taught me.

2 Responses to “Win Win Movie; A Little Background”

  • Cathy:

    I’m a 1974 grad of NPHS and just saw the movie in Denver yesterday!! LOVED IT!! Great story, great acting and I was wearing my Pioneer pride on my sleeve! Thanks!!

  • Anthony Caggiano:

    T-Bone,
    Bettina and I really enjoyed the movie. I spread the good word down here and many folks have now enjoyed the movie. For posterity, I took pictures of the billboard of a couple of theaters down here in North Carolina that were showing the movie. Did Mike ever get so absorbed in reading the “Godfather” on a Greek ship while going to the Island of IOS that he slept on the outside deck of the ship when it was in the lo 40s?

    Congratulations on your success and thank you for providing us with a worthwhile entertaining evening. By the way, the best looking actor in the movie was the Principal.

    Cagg

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“Win Win” Trailer
About the Movie
Win Win is based on the story by Tom McCarthy and Joe Tiboni. When a disheartened attorney moonlighting as a high school wrestling coach stumbles across a star athlete, things seem to be looking up. That is, until the boy's mother shows up fresh from rehab and flat broke, threatening to derail everything. Cast: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor.
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Tiboni & Tiboni, LLP
166 South Street
New Providence, NJ 07974
Ph: 908-286-1136
Fax: 908-286-1605