Feb 22, 2011

[Spoiler Alert] Best Picture Nominees #5: The Fighter

One Big Happy, Dysfunctional Family
Of the films nominated for Best Picture this year, The Fighter stands out as the one where great acting stands way above the actual film.  Performances from Christian Bale and Amy Adams stand out, and quiet performances from Mark Wahlberg and the supporting cast provide a great backbone. The powerhouse performance of Christian Bale, who should deservedly is the front-runner for the Oscar, is certainly a sight to behold. Bale is known to morph physically and mentally for his roles, and here is no exception. Melissa Leo, whose strange antics and awkward off-screen persona (her hands in perpetual
namaste-esque prayer position, her false humility, etc) somewhat spoils her on-screen performance, acts in a way that screams "LOOK HOW MUCH I'M ACTING RIGHT NOW!" She's very good, but she's really too much. Leo's better in the quieter scenes, where her bug-eyes go back into her face long enough for audiences to realize that that Alice Ward is, in fact, a real person.

The film is a bit uneven.  As is often the case with 'based on a true story' films, there is both a ratcheting up of tension and strange tonal shifts. Life isn't a movie, where there can be a clear direction and a definite end. Life is sloppy, and so is this film.  Crack addiction is played for both laughs and for drama, family fights are terrifying and hilarious.  In no way should a film blatantly tell its audience how to feel, but this movie tells people how to feel and then chastises them for feeling that way a moment later.  For instance, Alice, the matriarch of dubious intentions, is supposed to be someone you care about, but she's drawn in this almost cartoonish light. Are we supposed to believe that her anger over her son's drug use is completely diffused by the Bee Gees (seriously, that happens)?

Charlene, One of Those MTV Girls
The movie lacks focus and narrative drive, and it's unclear what story is being told: the redemption of a fighter, the redemption of a former fighter-turned drug addict, the hope of a town, the coming together of a family, the beginnings of a romance? There is a place where all these stories can be told in a cohesive manner, but in The Fighter everything is jockeying for all the attention. It's all a bit muddled.

That being said, The Fighter is still a great movie and the accolades it has received are very much deserved.  The Boston Massachusetts accents aren't that distracting, Conan O'Brien's sister is in it, and Charlene (Amy Adams) knocks a movie (Belle Epoque) because there isn't enough sex in it. Maybe it's appropriate that this movie is a little rough around the edges. Sometimes you have to let go and enjoy the chaos.

Good Movie: Yes
Best Picture: It would be a surprise, but possibly. It's not particularly well-directed, which could hurt it
Score: 8/10
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