New Jersey ElderLawAnswers member attorney Joseph B. Tiboni is just a few weeks away from his debut as a Hollywood screenwriter, and the script highlights several critical issues in the practice of elder law.
"Win Win", opening nationwide on March 18, 2011, with stars Paul Giamatti and Amy Ryan, is Tiboni's first foray into screenwriting. Co-written with and directed by Tiboni's childhood friend, Tom McCarthy (director of "The Visitor" and "The Station Agent"), "Win Win" tells the story of struggling attorney Mike Flaherty (played by Mr. Giamatti), who moonlights as a high school wrestling coach and becomes legal guardian of an elderly client in an attempt to help keep his practice afloat. When the client's teenage grandson runs away from home and shows up on his grandfather's doorstep, Mike's family life and his wrestling team are turned upside down. Mike's win-win proposition turns into something much more complicated than he ever bargained for.
Though the film is not autobiographical, Tiboni modeled much of Mike's life on his own. Like Mike, Tiboni's home and practice is in New Providence, N.J., where he lives with his wife and two daughters. Both he and McCarthy also wrestled on the same high school wrestling team, which is a focal point of the movie. But that is where the similarities between Tiboni and his fictional likeness end. "Unlike Mike, I never took on a guardianship and placed a client in a nursing home against his will," Tiboni said in a film company press release. "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."
"Win Win" sheds light on a topic Tiboni finds 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 to be in their own homes," Tiboni said. "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. I really hope 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."
Although "Win Win" is Tiboni's first screenplay, it's not his first experience working with a major Hollywood film. He also provided legal advice on issues facing the elderly for Pixar's Academy Award-winning animated film "Up."
"Win Win, which is from Fox Searchlight Pictures, premiered at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival to critical acclaim. To watch the movie's trailer, click here.