Oh thank gawd, it feels like it’s been three fackin’ weeks since I gawt ta offah my two cents on a motion picshah set in my fayah state of Mass. It seems like these days, Hawllywood has the audacity ta offah three a foah movies every mont that ah NAWT SET NEAH BAWSTON. And that is PISS POAH. Everyone knows New Yawk is a queah. But The Fightah is about bawxin, Mahky Mahk, bein blue collah, and most of all, Lowell, Mass. GO SAWX, oah whatevah.
(*clears throat, shuffles papers*)
In Zadie Smith’s award-winning debut novel White Teeth, which also happened to have as its central characters two brothers, she wrote perhaps most brilliantly about the often burdensome but defining nature of one’s own family history, writing that the brothers of her story “could not escape their history any more than you can your own shadow.”
If we extend Smith’s metaphor then, to David O. Russell’s The Fighter, the titular character, Mark Wahlberg’s Micky Ward, spends most of the film shadow boxing. His fights in the ring become a release from the stifling influence of his overbearing mother, crackhead brother, and sewing circle of chirping sisters. Paradoxically, the film itself seemed to function almost in the opposite manner, with the scenes of Ward’s pugilistic triumphs being rendered anti-climactic in comparison to the compelling and often hilarious family drama.
If you’ve read any othah Fightah reviews, towahds the end you prawbably had to pry the reviewah’s Hahvahd mouth off Christian Bale’s British cawk. But when it comes to The Fightah, by fah my fave rit paht was that little fiyah crawtch, Amy Adams. I’ve nawt seen too many of Adams’ othah films, on account of them looking lahgely like majah queah fests. But I can repawt that in The Fightah, she gives a pahfahmance that wid rival that of The Wrestlah‘s Oscah-nawminated wawp, Mariser Tomei. Adams seems to undahstand that being believable alawngside a blue collah bawxah like Irish Mickey Wahd requiyahs checking yoah vanity at the doah — much like being a dahkie in Bill Bellichick’s Awffensive system. She pahfahms with mawxie and cawnfidence even when her pink nipples ah cleahly visible beneath a skimpy, see-through brar, oah her tramp stamp and belly fat ah hanging ovah her shawts while she tends bah, like Boogah Lips O’Sullivan’s whoah sistah.
The major strength of The Fighter is that even within the basic premise, it doesn’t fall into easy clichés. It would be easy if Christian Bale’s Dicky Ecklund was always a pathetic f*ck up, or if his mom was always an overbearing b*tch, but the strength of the movie is the truth of life: sometimes a pathetic f*ck up can still be right. The structure is simple, but Micky’s choices aren’t, and trying to draw lines between the shades of grey is what makes it compelling.
That and Micky’s trashy sisters. My God they are amazing. Every time they were on screen I couldn’t stop giggling. Just imagine a Greek chorus of white-trashy Mass chicks with foul mouths and ridiculous haircuts cussing and fighting and sniping and crying. Simply divine.
The Fighter does Mass-sploitation a little more honestly and a little less cartoony than The Town (and obviously it has to, being based on real people). It’s a totally different film, but it managed a similar level of watchability. I was almost as excited to hear Wahlberg’s “NAWT YOU” moment as I was for Affleck to put the whole fackin’ Town in his reahview.
The only real drawback for me (well, other than the whole blue-collar boxer makes good story having been done before — I admit, I’ve always been a David O. Russell fan, even I Heart Huckabees, and I wish The Fighter had more of his trademark weirdness) was the actual boxing scenes.
They still look really fake. No one has yet cracked the code to making movie boxing look real. Problem is, we all know what real boxing looks like, and even the tiniest deviation from that gives it away — an uncanny valley situation. In this case, the sound effects weren’t doing it any favors either. It sounded like they had two or three different punch sound effects that they kept reusing at almost the same volume. Not good. It still looks realer than Raging Bull or any of the Rocky movies, but I think a better solution would’ve been to cut in footage from the real Ward’s fights, American Splendor style. Could that really be more expensive than all the time Wahlberg spent training? And as an audience, we could handle it. Having Wahlberg’s Ward and the real deal co-exist in the same movie would actually be less distracting than the fake boxing was.
That said, it didn’t ruin the movie for me. YOU CAN’T KEEP THE FIGHTAH DOWN, IT’S TOO GRITTY AND HAHD WORKIN’ AND BLUE COLLAH! IT PUNCHES THE CLAWCK AN GOES TA WORK!