“A working class hero is something to be,” so sings John Lennon. Is Micky Ward, the protagonist of The Fighter really a hero? Who knows? All I can say is that this is the kind of film that makes me excited that it is Oscar season. The Fighter is story telling at its best, a film so full of little human moments. It follows the true life career of Boston boxing champ Micky Ward but never falls into the trap of a cliched boxing film. Sure, it has scenes of Micky boxing and of him contemplating whether he has what it takes to be a first rate boxer but the film is much more concerned with what makes him want to box in the first place. Most scenes are intimate, between just a few characters on the working class streets of Lowell, MA. We meet all of Micky’s family including his seven sisters and his brother Dicky who smokes so much crack he can’t see what he is doing to his life and Micky’s as well. We also meet Micky’s girlfriend Charlene who tries to nestle her way into his family even though his parents and siblings clearly want to keep her out of it. That is ultimately what The Fighter is about, not boxing but family, a working class one at that. It’s not a political film but in one scene in which Micky fights at Caesar’s Palace casino in Las Vegas, I couldn’t help but think of gladiators fighting in ancient Rome while wealthy spectators watched them fight for their freedom. In that way, The Fighter is a film for the times, one about how the working class entertains the wealthy while they sit in their seats, protected from any punches that may come their way.
Perhaps the reason to see the film is for its acting. The obvious standout is Christian Bale as Dicky. Bale is so full of zest that you can’t help but like him in spite of his crack addiction, his immaturity and his selfishness. He shows a full range here, not once did I think, “oh it’s Batman!” Bale cements himself here as one of Hollywood’s best character actors. Any accolades that come his way are fully deserved. Melissa Leo is also outstanding as Micky’s mother. I was fully convinced by her performance, if I saw her shopping at a Massachusetts Market Basket I wouldn’t blink an eye. Leo is like the Meryl Streep that no one’s heard of until now… at the age of 50 no less. Amy Adams proves once again just how talented she is in the role of Charlene. This isn’t the same Adams you saw in Enchanted or Julie & Julia or even in Doubt, no in The Fighter Adams proves that her dramatic career is just beginning. Lastly, there is Mark Wahlberg who more than succeeds in his role as Micky. However, his performance almost fades into the background to the likes of Bale’s and Leo’s but this is not Wahlberg’s fault, that’s just how Micky actually behaved in real life. Nevertheless, Wahlberg is best during his small moments, when the camera is an inch away from his face and he simply exude honesty. Also fantastic are the actresses who play Micky’s sisters.
The script is great as well, every line seemed real. The cinematography was unpretentious but fascinating, like Micky himself. There are no sweeping views of the city, no dramatic camera work, no special effects but the camera goes where it needs to and focuses on the things that are most important. Director David O. Russell also uses different film for different scenes.
Half way into the film it I really had to go to the bathroom but I didn’t. I was too captivated by it. It might not be a documentary but every moment of it seems real. The Fighter shows us that truth can often be more exciting than fiction.
Bottom Line: Go see this in the theater.