This film, apparently a hot contender in various possible Oscar categories, has yet to open here, but we went to a preview last night. Frankly, I am now rather surprised that the movie has been as well received as it has, since I find it hard to believe that it is justifiably in contention for Best Film of its year or for the numerous acting awards being considered for its lead cast of Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams, and Melissa Leo or for its director David O. Russell.
This is not to dismiss the film out of hand, but for a start one needs be a fan of boxing movies -- of which there have been a huge number over the years -- and I don't really number myself amongst those who enjoy watching two men bash the living daylights out of each other. Based on real characters, the film has been a pet project of lead actor Wahlberg for many years, since it celebrates the life and achievement of one of his hometown heroes, the fighter 'Irish' Micky Ward. Ward, at the age of 31 has achieved very little under the tutorship of his older, ex-fighter step-brother Bale and the self-interested and overbearing management of his mother (Leo). With the encouragement of new girlfriend Adams, he breaks away from the family, especially since brother Dickie is in prison, and works with a new trainer to achieve his goals. However, as much as this is a movie about boxing, it is also a story about the strength, importance, and dynamics of family ties. Ward can not find the success he craves without acknowledging this factor
Bale has already won the Golden Globe for best supporting actor; since he is playing an irrepressible and irresonsible crackhead, it is the sort of showy role that attracts awards. It may indeed win Bale an Oscar, even if it is very hard to actually like his character. Leo, deservedly nominated for her role in 2008's "Frozen River", is equally unlovable in this film and I am not convinced that her acting here deserves recognition, as she rules the roost over her two sons and her seven harpy daughters. Similarly while Adams continues to show her versatility in playing the foul-mouthed girlfriend and is every bit as good as Bale in this lesser part, I don't see her walking away with a golden baldie either. In contrast to the various histrionics on display, Wahlberg comes across as a decent, solid but stolid chap. This is exactly the kind of man he is meant to be playing, but not the kind of character that wows critics.
I'm happy to have seen this movie, but I will not be amongst its cheering section when the Oscar wins are announced.