Monday, 31 January 2011

The Fighter (2010) Best director nomination - Really?

Viewing context:
Staff screening – got the text about an hour before they were putting it on. Had to get changed back out of my jamas and get down there pretty sharpish.

Directed by David O. Russel, director of I Heart Huckabees and Three Kings, both films that I thought were more interesting and had more heart than this film. Interesting that he also has writing credits for those two, which he doesn’t for The Fighter. Screenplay by Scott Silver (8 Mile), with Paul Tamsey (nothing I recognise in his work) and Eric Johnson (writing debut by the looks of it) who also worked on the screenplay as well as the story.

What Happened:
Two brothers with an overbearing (to say the least) mother (Melissa Leo) driving them to succeed, although being far more invested in the older brother Dicky (Christian Bale) than she was in Micky (Mark Wahlberg). Dicky was a boxer, a pretty good boxer, he knocked down Sugar Ray Robinson (a feat he won’t let anyone forget), but he is now a crack-head living in a delusion that he’s going to make his comeback. In the process of this alleged comeback he is training his younger brother Micky, but by training I mean being an iron anchor round Micky’s ankle dragging him down his own self destructive path. Sounds pretty clichéd and corny…. well…. because it is really (enjoyably so though). One of those ‘only in America’ stories, although I do believe it has more than the usual ‘triumph of the individual’ arc and has a stronger society based theme, but see below for this justification.

Why was he fighting? Why call it The Fighter? Alright yeah, he was boxing, but even this film - as direct and obvious as it is - isn't quite shallow enough for the word ‘fighter’ to simply mean somebody that fights. The most obvious application is to Dicky's fight against addiction rather than to Micky’s desire to achieve, as Micky, although he hits people a lot, never actually fights for anything. You never know what he actually wants; he constantly reiterates that he isn't bothered about boxing; he doesn't have some kind of insatiable need to be the greatest. If anything, all he wants to do is simply restore some pride in his family's and his neighbourhood’s soiled reputation. I got the sense that he felt an obligation or duty to his community, his family and his cultural origins. The supporting cast of characters is littered with failed or flawed individuals, or those who just didn’t take their opportunities, all of which are desperate to play these out through Micky. I couldn’t figure something out though, was his overly passive attitude in a film called ‘The Fighter’ a deliberately ironic statement; that sometimes fighting is actually doing something for the better of those around you, for society, because you can, rather than because you actually want to. If so, very good, but alternatively, it is possible that the film was supposed to convince me that he did give a shit, that he really did want to succeed for his own reasons, in which case it failed completely on me.

What it did particularly well:
Struggling with this one to be honest. There wasn’t anything 'particularly' bad about it, but I can’t say anything stood out as being ‘particularly’ good. Possibly the film’s ability to convince me that Micky was stuck in the middle; that he was constantly being torn in different directions. Also there were some great supporting performances, but see below for that.

What unimpressed or didn't quite reach potential:
Not so much unimpressed, it will sound as though I didn’t like the film, which isn’t the case, I did, but I think the whole film just didn’t quite reach potential. It suffered from being neither big and extravagant, nor small and personal. So it hit all the boxing film clichés in a pretty corny way, but it never managed to elevate them moments to be really emotive, in a way to sweep you up in the narrative. Like the boxing sequences for instance, were on a couple of occasions so corny I couldn’t take them seriously (the obvious commentary and the montage scene), whereas at other times it was brutal and engaging. This is the same problem I had with the family politics aspect, which at times was easily the best part of the film, yet there were parts where it got really daft and I could hardly believe that the different scenes were in the same film. One part in particular where all the sisters squeeze into a car to go and ‘sort out’ Micky’s girl fiend Charlene (Amy Adams). This should be an incredibly tense scene, but there is this over the top, almost slapstick music playing and they all squabble around into the car like they’re in a Carry On film or something; It was absolutely ridiculous. Similar to this, the crack heads were like cartoon characters; after having seen the likes of The Wire or Spike Lee’s Jungle Fever, there is no way you can take these characters seriously.

Performance of the film:
I know there is a lot of chatter about Christian Bale’s performance, which I thought was pretty goofy, until I saw the video footage of the real life Dicky, at which point it was clear that Bale had done a great job at capturing his eccentricities. Having said that, and considering that I didn’t know how accurate Bale’s depiction was and therefore it just came off looking a little wacky, I thought Amy Adams as Micky’s girlfriend Charlene was the best performance, even though her character slipped a little into insignificance as the film went into the last act.

Scene of the film:
The scene where Charlene first meets Micky’s family. Her standoff with the mother and the sisters in this scene was one of the contributing factors to me thinking that hers was the performance of the film. The acting from all in this scene was great; they all played their part, along with the way that scene was shot in order to create a claustrophobic and tense atmosphere. It was like a volcano about to erupt.

Final Word:
Sort of cannot believe that this has a best picture nomination. I know that my favourite films and academy’s interpretation of best films are not quite the same (don’t think they were ever likely to nominate Four Lions, Son of Babylon or Redline), but I see how the academy works and would have much rather seen Shutter Island or something get a look in. As for best director, controversially over Christopher Nolan... bemused is the word. Having said all that though, I quite liked it.

No comments:

Post a Comment