Mary the Borderstan Movie Fan’s column on movies runs every two weeks. Mary Burgan is a retired professor of English and association executive. Her previous reviews are listed at the end of this post. You can contact Mary by email.
The Fighter begins with camera shots of the deserted streets of Lowell, Massachusetts, and then moves quickly to the sweaty practice fight at a gym, and then the locals gathered at a bar — all this life floating on a stream of poetic obscenity, the likes of which I haven’t heard at a movie since The Last Detail (1973) — one of the really great movies that Jack Nicholson made before he began to parody himself in movies like The Bucket List (2007).
The heroic profanity in The Fighter may be even more telling than it is in the Nicholson movie because much of it comes from the mouths of the powerful women involved in the life of “the fighter” of the film’s title. He is a welterweight professional fighter named “Irish” Mickey Ward. He is portrayed in all his working-class quiet desperation by Mark Wahlberg, who should never again be discounted as an actor after this film. Mickey idolizes his crack-head “coulda been a contender” brother, brilliantly played by Christian Bale, who helps to train him and to work with their mother to manage his career.
Bale will undoubtedly be nominated for his characterization of the brother. And another nomination will be in order for Mickey’s mother, played to the hilt by Melissa Leo. And then there should be another nomination for Amy Adams, who plays Mickey’s girlfriend, a bartender who can match his mother and his many sisters in brass and profanity.
Both Adams and Leo have been nominated for Academy Awards in the past couple of years, but I believe this should be the year for at least one of them finally to get the statue. They both play against type. Melissa Leo, who usually plays a plain woman doing heroic things (see Frozen River, 2010), is unrecognizable in The Fighter. In this film she has a platinum hairdo, tight pants, cigarettes, and attitude.
These are her weapons for battling her age and the failures of her motherhood, especially her efforts to shelter her crack-head son, using his younger fighter brother in the process. Her seven big-haired daughters have only the minor roles of sitting, watching, and menacing anyone who gets in their mother’s way.
And Amy Adams is no fairy princess either. Although she can be tender and has enough understanding to help the fighter free himself from his family, she is a match for the mother in mouth and aggression.
Well, even though it’s Rocky meets Raging Bull, I think the acting ensemble in The Fighter is the best I’ve seen all year — And the whole film should be up there for an Oscar as well.
Note: In mentioning Raging Bull I think about its fabulous acting, especially by Robert de Niro. What a comedown it is that he, like Jack Nicholson, now parodies himself on a regular basis in the Meet the Fockers series. I saw this dreck of a movie over the holidays, and I can warn you not to waste any of your movie dollars on it. See any of the films buzzed for Oscar instead.
Mary’s previous movie reviews are below the fold.
Previous Reviews by Mary Burgan
- Christmas Movies: An Interim Report from California
- Reality Cinema: “Fair Game” and “Inside Job”
- “For Colored Girls” and the Films of Tyler Perry
- “All Quiet on the Western Front” Still Powerful After 80 Years
- Scary Movies: My Personal List
- Will You Friend Me? “The Social Network”
- “Wall Street II” Lacks Moral Clarity of 1987 Film
- Tilda Swinton in Love
- Breaking Away: Going-to-College Movies
- “Inception” Doesn’t Measure Up to “The Matrix”
- Books to Movies: Stieg Larsson’s “Millennium Trilogy”
- A Bastille Day Salute: 10 French Films to See
- Mary Reviews Movies About Fathers
- Borderstan Movie Fan Explains Indie Flicks
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Favorites from Argentina, Brazil
- Borderstan Movie Fan: “Alice” and “The Secret of Kells”
- Mary’s Favorite (and Not So Favorite) Violent Movies
- Gentrification: “Clybourne Park” Plot Speaks to Borderstan
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Black History Month and the Media
- Catching Up: The Movie Fan is Back with New Reviews
- Opera Lite: Opera at the Movies
- Borderstan Movie Fan: “Avatar” and Films for the Big Screen
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Movies for Christmas
- “Precious” and “The Blind Side” Tell Some Hard Truths
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Children’s Movies for Grandparents, Part 2/Older Kids
- Borderstan Movie Fan: Children’s Movies for Grandparents (Part 1)
- High School Musicals
- Movies for Foodies
- Health Care Options at the Movies
- My Favorite Sexy Movies
- Borderstan Movie Fan” Tells You What to Rent