The Fighter

The Fighter

Run time 114 minutes
Not for children

Amy Adams in “The Fighter.”

What’s amazing about this film, based on the true story of Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg) and his brother Dicky (Christian Bale), is that under the end credits is a film of the real Micky and the real Dicky. Bale is a carbon copy of the real Dicky, even down to his mannerisms.

Shot in 33 days in Lowell, Mass., Micky is the younger brother of Dicky, who are the sons of Alice (Melissa Leo), a über-controlling woman who manages her son’s boxing career, poorly. Dicky is a crack cocaine addict who once floored Sugar Ray Leonard. Micky has approximately seven sisters, all of whom just sit around and expect Micky to support them. It is a family from hell.

Micky falls for a bartender, Charlene (Amy Adams), who exerts an influence on Micky to divorce from the strings of his family and go out on his own.

I consider boxing an anachronistic remnant from Roman gladiators who fought to the death in front of bloodthirsty crowds. As a result, I detest most movies about boxing. But this isn’t your typical boxing movie. It’s really a character study. Bale gives a once-in-a-lifetime performance as Dicky, and his performance is the one you will remember. But the test of a terrific actor is one who can give a performance that is believable and fits into the story but that you don’t necessarily remember because you don’t realize he is acting. That describes Wahlberg, Adams and Leo, all of whom deserve awards nominations.

For Adams fans, there is a lot more of her displayed in this film than has been seen before. It’s not only her acting that is eye-popping.

Tightly directed by David O. Russell from a script (Scott Silver, Paul Tamasy and Eric Johnson), this captures the gritty atmosphere of lower middle class Massachusetts.

Russell succumbed to the temptation of most sports movies of making the sounds of the fights unrealistically loud, which results in one wondering how anybody can stand up after being hit by just one of the blows that sound so devastating. In real life, boxers don’t make these kinds of sounds.

That’s a minor criticism that is applicable to almost all sports movies, and it’s not enough to detract from the excellence of this film, which is clearly one of the best of the year, regardless of how you feel about boxing.

How Do You Know

Run time 121 minutes
OK for children

Reese Witherspoon and Owen Wilson star in “How Do You Know.”

After his last effort, the debacle Spanglish (2004), three time Oscar®-winner writer-director-producer James Brooks has finally done himself proud with this romantic comedy.

Lisa (Reese Witherspoon) gets dumped from the U.S. baseball team and goes into a funk. But she finds herself pursued by Matty (Owen Wilson), a serial-womanizing major league pitcher who earns $14 million a year, and George (Paul Rudd), a corporate executive who has lost his position with his father’ firm because he is the target of a federal investigation.

Backing them up in supporting roles are Jack Nicholson as George’s father, Charles, and Kathryn Hahn as George’s assistant, Annie. Their sparkling performances add immensely to the enjoyment of the film.

But, good as they are, the three leads make this something special. Witherspoon gives a perfect, Doris Day-type performance as the woman in the middle, but it’s the comedic talents of Rudd and Wilson that turn this into a movie that stands with some of the better romcoms of history, like Pillow Talk (1959). Maybe it’s not up to When Harry Met Sally (1989), but it’s a lot better than Pretty Woman (1990). Rudd and Wilson are very funny and fine actors to boot. Wilson has been in a lot of horrible movies, too many to mention, but I’ve always enjoyed his performances. Rudd, too, has been in movies even worse than Wilson’s, like Anchorman (2004), Forgetting Sarah Marshall (2008), and the truly deplorable I Love You, Man (2009). Like Wilson, he got more out of the scripts and directing than they deserved.

At long last both Wilson and Rudd get to work with a terrific script and the result is a thoroughly entertaining film, even if it is a half hour too long. I hope, now that they have been in a quality film, they will both pick their projects more carefully from now on. They are good enough that they can afford to be selective.

Finally, a bit of movie trivia. How do you know? According to Rudd, there was line in the film that didn’t make the final cut that answered that question. You know when “you are able to be more yourself than you ever thought possible when you’re in the company of this person.” According to Nicholson, however, the time you know is when you get a lawyer to draft a prenup.

Read more reviews at www.tonymedley.com.

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