As I stated in a previous post - I really had no interest in seeing 'The Fighter'. It seemed predictable, unoriginal and uninteresting for someone like me who has zero interest in the sport of Boxing. My intention this week was to see 'The Kings Speech' but for some strange reason it is not playing in the theater that I went to. I figured I should see 'The Fighter' since I have heard consistently great things about the acting. I still contend that the story is weak, predictable, linear and only mildly interesting - but the acting is sooo amazing that I didn't even notice how simple the plot was until after it was over. The 4 main actors are completely captivating and really the only reason to see the film.
1. Mark Wahlberg - I sort of have a thing for reformed 'bad boys'. Mark admits he spent much of his younger years as a delinquent not only committing crimes - but also as a racist and sexist douche bag. But, I do believe (although it is rare) - some people if they really put their mind to it can change. I have a lot of respect for him - he is not only a successful actor, he is a business man (producing some of the best shows on television - Entourage, In Treatment and the much lauded Boardwalk Empire) and a family man (father of 4 kids and husband to the gorgeous Rhea Durham). As an actor, I find Mark to be probably the most inconsistent actor in Hollywood. He can do amazing (The Departed), hilarious (I Heart Huckabees, The Other Guys), memorable (The Basketball Diaries), mediocre (The Italian Job, Three Kings), bad (Rock Star, Planet of the Apes), worse (The Lovely Bones) and absolutely painful (The Happening). Luckily, The Fighter is one of his amazing performances. I loved Christian Bale's speech after he won the Golden Globe - he talked about how he would not have been able to do what he did if Mark wasn't so great as the more grounded (and overlooked) character. I think this is really true for this film - the other characters are so big and in your face but Mark as Micky was subtle and reserved. It takes a lot of restraint to play that role, yet he was still able to portray a raw emotion. He gives us a vulnerability that you don't usually see in such a tough guy role, he slowly 'breaks' without physically having a break down. It is truly outstanding to watch.
2. Melissa Leo - I am not surprised that Melissa was fantastic in this film. I have been a fan of hers ever since she shined in my second favorite film of all time (21 Grams). I was surprised that she was ignored for her performance in that film, but am happy that she seems to be getting more recognition ever since her stand-out performance in 2008's Frozen River. In this film, she is unbelievable. It is obviously difficult for someone her age to play the mother of Mark Wahlberg (who is only 10 years younger) - it's almost insulting (or a compliment - she obviously has the talent to pull off pretty much anything). She embraced the role - it helped that the hair, makeup and costume designer did a fabulous job transforming her physically.
3. Christian Bale - So, I remember watching the trailer for The Fighter, then later reading about it - I noticed Christian Bale was listed in the cast and wondered why they didn't show him in the trailer. I watched the trailer again and was blown away - I honestly did not recognize him. He is notorious for physically changing himself for film roles - like how he lost weight for The Machinist. For this role he outdid himself, he not only lost weight he truly looked, sounded and pretty much embodied a Boston drug addict. His face was sunken in, his hair was stringy and thin, his eyes were tired and dilated and his Boston accent was better than the Dorchester born Mark. The weird thing is that Christian Bale is often cited as one of the best actors working today, yet he is often ignored by all major awards. He consistently chooses roles that are completely different - he goes from a charming serial killer to Batman to this role and makes it look easy. Even weirder - he is now finally recognized but as a "supporting" role. His role was NOT supporting - he was in the film just as much as Mark was - as the film was about the relationship between 2 brothers. I would argue that even though the film is called The Fighter - the title could refer to either of the brothers. Maybe his people assumed that his chances would be better if he enters as 'supporting' but he could easily win the Oscar as a lead role for this film. I don't know if I can properly describe his performance in The Fighter - it was so arresting, realistic and memorable. If you are and acting enthusiast, as I am, you will be in awe through the entire film.
4. Amy Adams - Finally!! Amy Adams steps out of her comfort zone and shines. It's not a 'pretty' role or even remotely 'cute' - instead it is trashy and ugly. It is a role that most actresses would likely over-act in, but Amy finds the line between a stereotyped white trash bartender and a lovable, mouthy "tough" girl. You root for her - especially when she butts heads with Micky's 20 sisters (ok...exagerating...there was like 7 I think). Those scenes added the perfect amount of humor to such a depressing story. It's almost unfair that she has to share the supporting actress role with Melissa - both are great but I think Melissa is a little more showy. Amy is more realistic and less of a cliche. She has had an amazing career (nominated for 3 Oscars in the past 5 years) but I honestly did not get it...until now.