Attorney and volunteer High School wrestling coach Mike Flaherty (Paul Giamatti) is running out of money, with both his house and his office needing repairs. Out of desperation, he arranges to become the guardian of a rich, elderly dementia patient to get the $1500-a-month stipend from the state and puts the old man in a nursing home paid for by the client's own estate. Things get complicated when the old man's teenage grandson unexpectedly shows up, having run away from home. At first sullen and uncommunicative, Kyle later warms up to Mike's family and starts wrestling on Mike's team - as it turns out, he's a talented wrestler who seems destined for a bright future. Then his mother shows up, fresh from rehab...
This film contains examples of:
- Amoral Attorney: Debatably Mike, another attorney calls him out on this.
- Berserk Button: Kyle feels a great deal of animosity toward his mother; the mere sight of her can cause a sudden and jarring emotional reaction.
- Bleak Abyss Retirement Home: While the nursing home seems to be decent, you can't blame the old man for being upset about being forced there.
- Call Back
- The croquet match.
- What Mike is doing in the ending is mentioned earlier.
- Down to the Last Play: Down to the last wrestler, if he doesn't get pinned, their team wins the match.
- Emo Teen: Kyle.
- Foreshadowing: Mr. Poplar referring to "his park."
- House Wife: Jackie Flattery, Mike's wife appears to be one.
- Good Smoking, Evil Smoking: Mike buys a pack of cigarettes and lights up next to the dumpster behind the store when he gets really stressed out. Kyle smokesnote but quits when he joins the team.
- Illegal Guardian: Technically, Mike to Mr. Poplar.
- Lovable Jock: Kyle is an incredible athlete with great potential. His teammates all love his enthusiasm and commitment, and eventually accept him as one of their own.
- New Transfer Student: Kyle, originally from Ohio and even has a tattoo of the state of Ohio, moves in with Mike's family in New Jersey.
- Put Me In, Coach!: One of Kyle's friends on the team - a scrawny teenager who has never wrestled in a match before - wants to wrestle at Kyle's weight class. Kyle agrees to step aside and convinces the coaches to allow his friend to wrestle.
- Underdogs Never Lose: Averted with Mike's team being the underdogs and not having won a match all season, and only winning one by the end.
- Unnecessary Roughness: Subverted; Kyle resorts to fighting dirty in a match after his Berserk Button is pressed.