This film packs an entertaining punch that hits way above its light welterweight sporting story subject matter. American movies that tackle truly working class material with any realism are rare. There is no tradition of kitchen sink drama and too much is aspirational or unrealistic.
Just lately, “The Town” and “Conviction” have tackled similar themes of poverty in the USA, but neither of those has the great big heart and soul that lift this film to the level of extraordinary. This is the best movie I have seen for a long time.
I was going to skip it. I am 30 movies behind, on this blog and resigned to never catching up. I loathe boxing and struggle to see why people (usually men) hitting each other might be seen as sport. I like soccer, basketball and ice hockey and follow my favourite teams in a slightly passive way.
An email alerted me to the passion within this. It is Bargain Monday for members of Stratford Picturehouse, which meant that it would only cost £3. I had an annoying day and wanted distraction.
It is one of those movies that I will buy on DVD, treasure and watch again and again. It says so much, in such a brief time.
Plot? Failed boxer Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) is in thrall to big brother Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale). Yes, they have different names and there are nine siblings in total. They are from a broken home. Mother Alice Ward (Melissa Leo) wants to manage the careers of Micky and Dicky, but Micky’s girfriend Charlene has other ideas.
Charlene is played by Amy Adams who deserves an Oscar for this. In “Julie and Julia”, she irritated me but she is utterly believable as the working class bar girl who had a shot at college, but blew it. Amy is amazing. The scenes she has with Mark feel totally honest and are genuinely sexy.
These fights are within my memory – I follow sport – and nobody looked this gorgeous. But you forget that reality, with the quality of the acting. Yes, there is the mandatory (when did THAT become mandatory?) shot of the “real” Micky and Dicky during the credits. And the equally mandatory “what happened next in real life” bit is spelled out during the end section.
Is it realistic? Who cares? Every performance feels real, the audience at the Stratford Picturehouse loved it and it’s probably the staff pick of the current crop on show there. They sigh when they mention it. Really, they do.
Criticisms? The prison scenes are unrealistic. The cops are a mixed bunch of bad guys and good guys.
That’s about it. The music is terrific, David O Russell’s direction is spot on and the 115 minutes fly by. It enthralls you. It’s a team of writers rather than one, but the script is good and crisp and moves the action along.
Much has been made of the realism of the boxing, but don’t let that worry you. It’s not that realistic. Honestly, at real boxing, I hide my eyes behind my hands and I never wanted to look away during these filmed scenes. They capture the essence, without the harsh reality.
It’s just a gorgeous and compelling movie that draws you in from the first frame and never lets go. You feel lifted and inspired and isn’t that what movies are supposed to do?
On another subject, there are still tickets left for “My Kidnapper” and the question and answer session with Mark Henderson that follows on Tuesday, February 15th at Stratford Picturehouse. This is a superb documentary with a chance to ask the director and former hostage in Colombia questions. How could you miss this?