Directed by David O. Russell
Written by Scott Silver and Paul Tamasy & Eric Johnson
For the longest time Darren Aronofsky was attached to this project but he bowed out in favor of his other project, Black Swan, also now out in theaters. It is a project that has been on my radar because of that and because of the actors involved; it is quite the cast. Mark Wahlberg stars as aboxer reaching the end of his career, Christian Bale is his crack head brother who threw away his opportunity as a boxer, Melissa Leo plays their overbearing mother who also acts as manager, and finally Amy Adams stars as Wahlberg’s love interest. The film is based on a true story and chock full of astounding acting and drama.
The film explores the crazy dynamics of this family from small Lowell, Massachusetts. Growing up in a large family, and always overshadowed by his older brother Dick (Bale), Micky Ward (Wahlberg) was left in the corner and out of sight until his time came to bring the town and the family fame, and possibly fortune, with his boxing career. Dick has since become a crack head and believes the film HBO is making about him is about his comeback, not his crack addiction. Despite his drive to succeed, Micky is held back by the crutch that is his family. Instead of having his best interests at heart, they have the family as a unit on their mind, thus holding Micky back. When Micky meets Charlene (Adams) everything starts to change and Micky has an accomplice with whom to stand up against his controlling mother (Leo) and crazy brother Dick.
The performances all around are electric, but most especially Bale and Leo who should easily garner Oscar nominations. They steal the show, but the problem becomes that their characters steal the show as well. The story is Micky’s, but the more his larger than life family members are on screen, the less and less interesting Micky becomes. It is his struggle and it makes sense that he is less in the spotlight than his troubled family, but when the clichéd, expected ending comes, it feels unearned because at that point I didn’t care about Micky Ward and his struggle. I cared about Dick and his recovery, I cared about their mother Alice and her desire to control and exploit her sons. What resulted is not a nice story, but an entertaining one that strove to be, tried to be great, but fell short by no fault of its own, true to life, tale.