Yes, a lot of recognition, but is it worthy of it? Well I finally went to see it this evening and I was impressed, very impressed. Do I think it's better than Never Let Me Go and Black Swan? Well I definitely think that Never Let Me Go deserved more nominations than it received, but they are very different films and I really did enjoy The Fighter for quite a few different reasons.
Mark Wahlberg plays Micky Ward, the quiet, more thoughtful brother who has his head screwed on all the right ways. He's trying to make something of himself, he knows that he can be a success but he's overshadowed by his brother at every turn, by his mother and his brother.
Wahlberg himself has been overshadowed slightly in this film, and that's the way his character is. He plays the quiet and thoughtful character and that suits him to a tee, he does it well. Add in the aspect of him being in the best shape we've seen him and he performs well, you absolutely, whole heartedly believe he's a fighter.
The training and fight sequences are well choreographed and while there are moments where you can see some pulled punches, for the most part it does look good. The training is impressive, but that final fight is where it's really at and it does manage to pile on the tension, I actually found myself gripping my hands tightly and fidgeting in my seat, willing him to get into the fight even though I knew what happened in the real story.
I think it's here where the film packs its punch, but it's much earlier where it winds up for the power.
The story of the battling family, the directions Micky is being pulled in and Dicky's struggle is where it really begins. I was rather taken aback with family, through much of the first half I actually felt uncomfortable with the family and the way they were treating Micky, or mistreating him, and it was genuinely getting to me and at some points actually making me rather angry with them.
Also at times I was frustrated by Micky's inaction, and that's a great thing for a film to do to push you into feeling something like that and to make you feel so frustrated you want to speak out. Mind you I wasn't sure if it was the inaction of Micky or the bizarre and incredibly frustrating, self-centred family, none of whom seemed to really care about Micky.
I have to say that the scenes with these characters were either making me laugh or making me shake my head in disbelief at the way they were behaving, seriously, they are unbelievable, and at the controlling head is Melissa Leo who is blistering in her portrayal of the blinkered and focussed mother more in love with Dicky than Micky.
She goes through quite the range with her character, and watching her go from the driving force, to angry, hurt and then her own realisation and rediscovery does wonders for the film, but it's the similar journey of Christian Bale that is the best.
Bale's character is heartbreaking at times, he plays the crack addict so well you could easily believe he's out of his head, and his moments of self-discovery and the turnaround of his character are done well, there aren't the huge Hollywood turn of character moments but more quiet, inward moments, such as the darkened corridor after he watches the film that was supposed to be about himself and turns the camera on his true character.
I want to say something about Amy Adams performance too, and not because she's willing to bare herself on film and she's not the stick thin type, and by the way can I say I find her incredibly attractive for not being like that, there's a certain sexiness from her character's strength and attitude throughout the film. More than that though, she's a damn good actress and really shows it here.
In a film filled with strong actors giving great performances, Adams delivers a powerful one and takes her character on a journey that seems to mirror those of the other characters. At first she doesn't seem to be going anywhere with the character and she seems pretty clear from the outset, but she's the catalyst and voice for Micky, and she provides some great combative moments with the mother, the family and Dicky. Adams does all this very convincingly with a strong and touching performance.
I'm not convinced though that the Oscars aren't just throwing nominations at the film. Sometimes I thought the direction and particularly the editing was a little harsh and haphazard at the beginning of the film and at times I was wondering where the story was going as it would leap slightly in another direction. This picked up later in the film and it really got some direction behind it when Micky himself did, but there were moments.
Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo are well worth watching in the film, and the dysfunctional family provide a great back story for the main event, the story of Micky. While we get the rousing story of Micky's battle to become a true fighter, and one that manages to get under your skin and get an emotional rise out of you during some of the fight scenes, it's overshadowed by the redemptive and satisfying story of Dicky.
The Fighter ranges from quirky, to funny, to exciting. The film is rather different to the one you might expect, but with strong characters and a very engaging story, you'll be sucked in and rooting for them all to pull through, no matter what you think of them.