January 04, 2011

MOVIES: The Fighter (David O. Russell, 2010)

The Fighter is a standard sports-comeback story, based on actual events. It's most interesting, though, for the dueling approaches taken by its actors.

In one corner, we have Mark Wahlberg as down-on-his-luck Micky Ward, trying to get the break he needs before he's too old to fight anymore; and Amy Adams as Charlene, his bartender girlfriend. Their performances are relatively low-key and realistic (though Adams is working a little hard on the Boston accent), and their scenes together are the best ones in the movie.

In the other corner, we have Christian Bale as Micky's half-brother, Dicky Eklund, a former boxer himself who now serves as Micky's trainer; and Melissa Leo as the boys' mother, Alice, who manages Micky's career. They are wildly exaggerating every gesture and line reading, as if playing to the back row of an enormous theater. Bale and Leo are entertaining, but their performances are so broad and flamboyant that they're barely in the same movie as Wahlberg and Adams. (The Greek chorus of seven harpy sisters are solidly in the Bale/Leo half of the movie.)

The story itself isn't terribly interesting or surprising -- Micky gets his big break; Dicky fucks things up for him; Charlene gives Micky the strength to keep going; climax with the big title fight -- and director David O. Russell doesn't seem interested in doing anything unexpected with it. But there is something weirdly fascinating about the clashing acting styles, and that's enough to make the movie interesting, if not exactly good.

2 comments:

Brandon (Twister) said...

I found the movie to be astounding. It's a simple story that takes engaging, and smooth turns with its narrative and always somehow, admidst the insanity, retains clarity. It's also gut-bustingly funny (especially for Bostonians), and the acting is flawless, and the four main actors all deserve nominations and even some wins for their work.

Keith said...

Welcome!

It's not a movie I want to come down on too hard; I don't hate it or anything. But it does ultimately feel awfully safe and predictable to me (especially for a director like Russell, who's capable of more interesting work), and I'm always bothered when a movie's cast doesn't agree on style and tone. It's as if Bale/Leo and Adams/Wahlberg are in two completely different movies.