Directed by: David O. Russell
Written by: Scott Silver (screenplay), Paul Tamasy (story and screenplay),
Eric Johnson (story and screenplay), Keith Dorrington (story)
Company: Relativity Media
Runtime: 116 minutes
The film is about Mickey Ward, an underdog boxing player, who has his drug-addicted trainer-brother Dicky Ecklund, and extroverted manager-mother Alice Ward, taking over her career. He is not doing that well because his brother always cause delays and troubles, and her mother cares more about her pride of having two boxers than actually handling his fights wisely.
Things change when her strong-willed yet passive bar girl Charlene comes to his life. With her principles mostly conflicting Alice’s, Charlene turned out to be an unpleasant person for the family. But Mickey started to think for himself. With Dicky being sent to jail, Mickey started to have a better career thanks to is new manager.
This enrages Alice, causing her whole family to go against what is happening between Charlene and Mickey. Mickey stands up for himself, and as Dicky is paroled, more troubles ensue just before Mickey’s biggest fight.
The screenplay is not the most original screenplay one could have. As you could have read, it’s almost the quintessential sports story, or boxing story for that matter (Rocky, anyone?). And it’s not quite a secret – it has a happy ending. So where is the difference? It’s on the characters. They are so three-dimensional, humane, believable, and most of all, realistic. The characters, in a fast glimpse, may seem like they are stereotypical, but the intelligence lies on how the characters became fully rounded. Each has their own conflicts, has their imperfections, has their distinct qualities. And it’s quite thrilling when you see these characters exchange words that you know are so well-thought.
And I am really quite pleased to see that this film has humor in it. These are real people, and they get involved in realistic, but bitingly funny scenes. I like that a lot because the film did not try to take everything too seriously. Yet, it did not try to sensationalize the laughs because it knows the fact that this is a mature drama where humor is present, but not always. And how fun those words of wisdom from the mother are!
Going to the film’s biggest asset aside from acting, the direction serves the material so well, raising the not-so-original material into a higher level of excellence. It gave life to the narrative by adding these very interesting choices in telling the story. It did not simply give us a boxing story. There is a distinct amount of uniqueness and dynamics in the story.
I hope I’m not the only one who thought that, but the direction actually made the film extraordinary. Sure, it has the sports genre thing in it, which makes it look predictable, and sure, you already know the story and the ending, for that matter, but when you actually watch the movie – you forget that. You simply throw any doubts in the film and you simply enjoy every bit of it.
The cinematography is something. It demonstrated a certain amount of naturalistic beauty. in many shots of the film. It’s not a show-off type of cinematography, but it added more life to the story. Actually, I thought the film would be dull, so I stayed away from this for the longest time. But watching the film, props for the cinematography, the visual part of the film just caught me by surprise. It found small details that may have seemed insignificant, but because the film took notice of that, the result is much more interesting.
The editing is simple, but definitely hypnotic in the least obvious way. Its skillful composition of scenes and elements is just wonderful – from the shots blended with perfect harmony with the sound and the music – the whole film simply resounded with energy. And I’m not yet talking about the boxing scenes. I’m just referring to those scenes of people exchanging lines, talking to each other. So how about the boxing scenes? Thrilling to watch all the way.
The film used a lot of pre-existing music that happened to be great choices. I mean, some of the songs here are definitely not of my taste if we are going to talk about the songs, per se, but when it was already used in the scenes in the film, they just added another layer of cinematic power in it. What is the song that played when Dicky was chased and Mickey’s hands got hit by a stick? It was a metallic rock song, and I never liked that kind of music, but it fit the scene so well. And who can question the great use of “How You Like Me Now” in the film’s most important scenes? So undeniably genius.
Also, the original music for the film cannot be discounted as of secondary importance. Talk about power. The original music pieces in the film are distributed evenly throughout the film in those scenes where we should hear nothing but a faint echo from the minds of the characters. Putting that aside, my favorite score in the film is “Ladies’ Day Out”. This music plays when the Alice and the Sisters drive to Charlene’s house for a confrontation. There is playfulness in it, but it never forgets the seriousness of it as a drama.
The costumes actually did a very good job in putting on the different shades on the facade of the characters, which is obviously, the costumes. You can easily identify the personality of the characters by simply looking at them, but the thing is, it’s not too obvious either. It’s just there to add a dimension on the characters.
And the make-up is mighty fine. The boxing injuries are believable, but it’s the Sister’s faces and hair that became the thing to watch out. These are seven sisters that should be unique from each other for them to feel necessary in the narrative flow. With the make-up, all of them felt different from each other.
The acting is fantastic, no doubt.
Mark Wahlberg does not have the showiest character among the bunch, somewhat surprising for a lead role. He mostly steps backward for his other co-stars to shine and get the film’s bigger share of attention. But actually, it was a wise acting choice for him not to compete with the other’s attention. He keeps everything grounded and subtle, which definitely fits his character. He does a bit of a sacrifice, but it’s all worth it because it’s in is character.
I’m not the biggest fan of Christian Bale’s work here, but I admit that I intensely salute him for this immensely dedicated performance. It’s not in the weight loss where I refer my word “immensely dedicated”. It’s on how I feel when I watch every scene of Bale. You can feel the dedication from him as an actor, and yet, it also feels so effortless. I first thought that this is going to be a very showy performance, physicality aside, but it turned out to be a near-subtle performance. I like that.
Amy Adams plays Charlene, the boxer’s girlfriend, in a very smooth manner. It’s your typical Oscar character – the girlfriend – but Adams add a lot of layers in her role, filling it with nuanced complexities and well-judged purity. Her character is not a hypocrite, almost always on the edge, but she also has a time when she suppresses her feelings towards Micky, towards herself, and that’s where Adams really shine. She need not a big scene for herself. All of her glory are in those exchanges with Wahlberg, with Bale, with Leo. And it’s also worth noticing that she fits the role so well, considering that this is against her usual work.
Coming in with a blazing, explosive, jaw-dropping creature is Melissa Leo as the mother lion of the family, Alice. There’s nothing that’s going to stop this strong force of nature Leo was able to bring to the movie. Her Alice takes no prisoners, just for the sake of her children, particularly her two sons, even if it sometimes causes their trouble.
Amidst of all the noises that she make, her love for her children felt sincere. And even if she causes a lot of trouble aside from Dicky, I still care for her. It’s such a very complicated character to play. Her Alice is extroverted, vocal, and over-the-top. And Leo acts Alice with the fact that she is over-the-top. Leo’s genius takes over the proceedings for her performance and the result is sheer actress magic.
The film’s is not original on paper, i can tell you that. But if you have such dazzling way to tell this story up to the point where everything seemed to be so new, then you have a masterfully made film. Filled with humor, drama, pathos, and intelligence, this film is definitely worth the time and the price.
For this, the movie gets:
What are your thoughts? Do you agree or not?