This was a fine film with a dramatic story and heartbreaking performances. The fact that it based on a true story is pretty amazing given the parallels to Rocky. We get a redemption story and a love story put together most effectively. On top of this you have a dramatic family story. The volatility of the relationships are a bit discomforting, I know families have their ups and downs, but the language, and tone in some of these scenes leaves you wondering how they manage to survive living together without killing each other.
Clearly this will be a contender for all kinds of awards, but in one category it will not be competing with any other film. Christian Bale will be the consensus winner of every award for best supporting actor by the time the Academy awards come around. His body language, face and dialect are spot on. The crack addict that he has become is the sad embodiment of every mother’s fears. What was once beautiful and full of life, becomes a parody of that life and a shadow hanging over the loved ones that are reluctant to deal with it. This is the showier roll in the movie, and one might think that Bale is getting credit for the part and not the performance. His work here is the equal of Daniel Day Lewis in “My Left Foot”, a technical marvel but a heart and soul as well. There is a brief clip in the credits of the real person that he plays, and you can see just exactly how he nails this part.
Everyone else is also solid. Mark Wahlberg is very good and deserves notice for a more subtle performance but one that is actually the center of the film. It is his character’s life that is being changed by the decisions around him. I love my brother, but we have never had the kind of relationship that I see in many stories of this type. There is hero worship and trauma, and frustration. This knockabout family is so involved in each others life that it is a bit claustrophobic. Micky,the character played by Wahlberg, is suffocating under the thumb of a loving but domineering family. When he asserts himself, all sorts of tension that was previously there bubbles to the surface, and Wahlberg makes you feel the conflict he is faced with.
The two leading female characters are both fully formed characterizations also. Melissa Leto as Micky’s Mother is fierce and terrifying. Amy Adams plays his love interest and she loses nothing in comparison in the fierce department. Adams is also a lot more of a sexual being in this movie then she has been in other films, and she sells it well. Sometimes she may be acting with her costume, but her face manages to sell the clothes also. There is a fantastic scene with Bale and Leto in the car, that simply consists of the lines from a Bee Gees song, but it will break your heart.
This was a well told story, the choices that are made by the director seem really sold. The incidental music feels spot on. I never noticed the actors struggling with the accents that are so typical of the region. Of course Wahlberg comes by his naturally, but again, Bale is amazing. It was an easier movie to enjoy then I thought it would be, because although there is darkness, there is also a substantial amount of light that gives hope to everyone in the end.
Big family? Claustrophobic? Involved in each other's lives? I can either see The Boxer this weekend or have a family BBQ …
Well, I saw The Boxer instead of having that BBQ and I loved it. It nailed the family dynamics that I have witnessed but thankfully don't have in my own. Half way through the movie I turned to my friend and said: see? Now do you understand why I always wanted to be Jewish?
My first phone call after the movie was to my mother to let her know how grateful I was that she and my dad skipped the east coast on their westward migration.
It's hard to describe the toxic family dynamics that The Boxer so brilliantly portrayed.