By Carolyn Williams
“The Fighter” is undoubtedly one of the best films of the year. David O. Russell’s Lowell-based film about brother boxers Dicky Eklund and Micky Ward hits home and is well-acted and well-realized. But what really sets “The Fighter” apart from the dime-a-dozen genre of underdog sports stories is its heart. “The Fighter” has heart in spades.
The story belongs to Micky Ward, a road-worker moonlighting as a boxer, played by Boston native Mark Wahlberg. HBO has descended on Lowell to film a documentary about Micky’s older brother, Dicky Eklund (Christian Bale), a retired fighter best known for knocking down Sugar Ray Leonard. Called “The Pride of Lowell,” Dicky has deluded himself and his family into the belief that he’s about to make a comeback in the boxing world, when in reality he is slipping deeper and deeper into his crack addiction.
Overshadowed by his mother, his seven sisters and the brother he has always idolized, Micky has become a “stepping stone,” a boxer who is used to boost the other fighters higher. At 31, Micky’s career seems about over, and after a slump of rough losses, he ashamedly considers quitting the sport for good. But, his strong-willed new flame, bartender Charlene Fleming (Amy Adams), calls on him not to give up his life dream so easily. Their new relationship acts as a catalyst, pushing Micky to make a last go of his career.
The family, and most notably the matriarch, Alice (Melissa Leo), balk at Micky’s decision to break away from the pack with Charlene, whom they meet with unmitigated dislike. The seven sisters, though comical on the surface, are a picture of stagnation, and Alice, though painfully stuck in the past where Dicky is fighting and still on the straight and narrow, eventually redeems herself, proving herself more aware of the family’s issues than she seems.
As Micky attempts to reclaim his career, he simultaneously begins to develop greater self-confidence and to strengthen his relationship with the bold and compassionate Charlene. Dicky also begins to pull himself together, albeit from the inside of a jail cell. Micky, ever the peacemaker in his family, acts to pull all of his separate supporters together. As Micky moves toward a real shot at a title, his motley group of loved ones, disparate though they may be, rally together to support the new “Pride of Lowell.”
Predictably, “The Fighter” made a splash at the box offices and was received well by critics. It’s a lovable film and a story that’s easy to relate toy.
“’The Fighter’ was an amazing movie that consisted of a truly phenomenal cast who was brilliant throughout the entire film,” Lauren Bernard ’14 said.
The actors were certainly well cast. Mark Wahlberg delivers a solid lead despite being overlooked for the Oscar. The supporting cast received three nominations, though, and the film has also garnered the prime nominations for Best Picture and Best Director for Russell. Christian Bale’s stringy, squirrelly Dicky is endearing and heartbreaking, a good counterpart to Melissa Leo’s bawdy, awful mother Alice Ward. And Amy Adams’s departure from her normal sweetness and innocence (remember “Enchanted”?) is spectacular as well.
“The Fighter” deals with a lot of difficult themes, and the dead-end lives of Micky and his siblings are saddening.
“I thought it had a tragic, but fascinating commentary on the family dynamic and was well acted and filmed. I thought it was excellent,” Kate Wilsterman ’14 said.
The portrayal of Lowell, Massachusetts is unflattering, which serves to help the audience further comprehend the triumph of Micky Ward over younger, better ranked fighters. “The Fighter” is an uplifting, feel-good sort of movie, and it has plenty of heart.