Sunday, September 4, 2011

The Fighter

I sort of have issues with both of this film's Oscar wins for supporting performances. In Christian Bale's case it's because I don't think he really has a supporting role, and in Melissa Leo's case it's because I don't think she's even the best supporting actress in the movie. Leo does a good job as Micky's controlling mother, but Treme shows she's capable of much more subtle and effective work, and the character is the kind of horrible woman that doesn't require a ton of talent to pull off. It's not really a character that's hard to pull off. I thought Amy Adams was better playing against type as Micky's bartending girlfriend, obviously caring for him but having enough rough edges to make her seem more real than his mom and especially his awful sisters, who felt like burdens on the movie.

Back to Bale, I think the film as written and shot is more of a story of two brothers, one who failed at boxing and one who still has a shot, rather than a typical biopic about a boxer. I'd consider him and Mark Wahlberg to be dual leads if anything, because while the main arc of the plot is the rise of Micky's career, a huge part of that is how Dicky's hometown hero status looms over him despite his subsequent career failures and crack addiction. It's really an amazing performance by Bale, too, the kind that at times takes over the movie. If he was nominated in the lead category I still would have given him the win even over Colin Firth in The King's Speech. They're actually kind of similar roles despite the vast gulf in the characters' statuses. They both play real people with distinctive speech patterns that are a huge aspect of the role. I thought Bale's work was more mesmerizing and interesting to watch, though of course he got to actually meet and interact with the person he was playing, so it's an interesting competition.

The movie in general hangs on the acting of the main characters. Even Wahlberg, who I'm not always the biggest fan of, is good, mostly because he concentrated on looking the part and let the more natural actors in the cast carry many of the scenes. The main thing I know about David O. Russell is that he frequently leaves projects and clashes with his actors, but he seems to be a perfectly fine if not terribly inventive director. I do think he did an especially good job with the fights, which had the right mix of believable grit and energizing climaxes. A lot of the best actual sports scenes in sports tend to be in boxing movies, because there's not too much to organize; you just have two actors, a ring, and a camera. Russell mostly went with emulating what actual televised fights would look like, and I like how they felt real while still having good impact. Beyond the acting and the fights, there's not a whole lot that distinguishes The Fighter. But those two things go a very long way.

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