With WIN IT ALL, the latest film from writer/director Joe Swanberg (Easy), Netflix’s continues to solidify its position as a premium purveyor of indie content. After nabbing a number of titles from Sundance this year, the streaming service has fast-tracked this South by Southwest flick less than a month after its debut. Indeed, Swanberg has been a vocal supporter of the online distribution of indie films, having previously made his 2012 feature Marriage Material available for free on his Vimeo page.
The rapid distribution is a stark opposite to the measured pace of WIN IT ALL. Consummate loser Eddie Garrett (Jake Johnson), a barely recovering gambling addict, is given a bag to hold onto for a few months for a reward of $10,000. Of course, he can’t help himself when he discovers it is full of cash, and decides he can make more if he goes back to gambling. Despite the warnings of his brother Ron (Joe Lo Tuglio) and friend Gene (Keegan-Michael Key), and a budding romance with nurse Eva (Aislinn Derbez), Eddie is soon in over his head and in the hole for a chunk of change.
There’s a laid-back attitude to Swanberg’s semi-improvised script, despite the increasing urgency of Eddie’s plight. Part of this is the casual way that Eddie’s growing debt appears on-screen in a nondescript bit of typography. Yet the film also relies on the ability of Swanberg’s cast of familiars to play off each other’s genuine charms, and his assembled cast are all skilled improvisers. It does at times threaten to make the lean plotting feel much longer than it actually is, with some longer takes deliberately placed to prolong Eddie’s suffering, and you will find yourself yelling in frustration as the lead makes yet another boneheaded decision.
Shot ‘secretly’ in Chicago and the suburbs, a location that’s a regular muse for Swanberg, the familiar local haunts of the city by the lake (such as the delicious A&T on North Clark) give the film a lo-fi authenticity. Filmed on 16mm, its grainy reality deliberately places its characters in everyday locales to give the impression of being close to the bottom of the barrel, and marks Swanberg’s commitment to characters that come across as ‘real.’
WIN IT ALL is the kind of storytelling that works best in the proven distribution model of streaming, as it definitely a film you want to kick back on the sofa with a couple of beers by your side. If nothing else, enjoy some Chicago settings and recognisable cast members while you’re waiting for the second season of Easy on Netflix.