The march toward first the Golden Globes and then the Oscars moves on, as we saw The Fighter today.
When I saw the trailer for this film, I have to admit that I wasn’t all that interested. Boxing? Meh. New England accents? Meh. However, Mark Wahlberg doesn’t annoy me, Christian Bale astonishes me, and Amy Adams charms me, so I could potentially be on board. And then, David O. Russell. Despite his I Heart Huckabees melodrama, I had long enjoyed him, with Three Kings, Flirting with Disaster, and Spanking the Monkey all first-rate. Then, there were inklings from reviewers and laypeople that there was more here than met the eye.
So, we went. It has some interesting parallels with The King’s Speech: good man on a mission with family drama holding him back. What was interesting for me was how much more emotionally invested I was in this film versus the other. I cried at the end, which surprised me, since I didn’t really think that I was or was going to get swept up in the story or the characters.
Russell has a light hand with directing here: other than a great panning back at the beginning of the film and the masterful realism of television coverage of the fights, one didn’t have a feeling (as with Inception as the extreme example) that the film was being directed. However, the gritty reality of the setting and the characters is obviously Russell’s vision, and it’s compelling and all-encompassing.
Certainly Leo, Whalberg, and Adams all put up very fine performances, but Bale is extraordinary. First, he’s really this generations DeNiro when it comes to physical transformation. Second, he brings a sad cockiness and helplessness to the role that, while certainly in the script, is affecting.
My qualm with The King’s Speech was that it didn’t really give me anything new, and one could make the same criticism of this film, but somehow The Fighter was better for some reason for me: it is richer and deeper emotionally. It’s a good film, and certainly worthy of consideration.