Maybe it’s the lack of surprise that makes this little film such an enjoyable heartwarmer. That, and refusing to oversell its story even as it glosses over some dicey behavior by likable folk to find its happy ending. The film itself went missing somewhere between the quirky charm of THE STATION AGENT/’03 and the journalistic prestige of SPOTLIGHT/’15 when writer/director Tom McCarthy decided the world needed a fresh High School wrestling pic. Why not? VISION QUEST came out back in 1985. Paul Giamatti takes the lead as a sinking independent lawyer (and after-school wrestling coach) who gets stuck with the grandson of a client suffering from early stage dementia. The kid, all but abandoned by his mom, turns out to be a natural on the mat, All-State material before he dropped out when his life got too messy. You’ll guess the rest, but it’s all so smartly observed, without a condescending blemish in detailing middle-class troubles, and phenomenally well cast in Amy Ryan, Bobby Cannavale, Jeffrey Tambor, Margo Martindale, Nina Arianda, even Burt Young, all in superb turns. And the lead teen, Alex Shaffer, plus a very skinny, very funny David Thompson as his team pal, maintain the organic quality McCarthy gets from his cast. A modest feel-good film that doesn’t cheat. No small thing. In fact, something to celebrate . . . modestly.
DOUBLE-BILL: As mentioned above, VISION QUEST. At the time, Linda Fiorentino was pegged for a major career, though Matthew Modine turned in the star making perf. Somehow, both missed out.