Rated R for violence, sexuality, drug use and pervasive profanity.
Wahlberg Stars as Real-Life Rocky
Veteran boxing fans are undoubtedly familiar with the exploits of “Irish” Micky Ward (Mark Wahlberg), the light-welterweight pugilist from Lowell, Massachusetts best remembered for a trio of memorable matches against the late Arturo Gatti. In fact, two of the gladiators’ epic battles (one in 2002, the other in 2003) were dubbed “The Fight of the Year” by Ring Magazine.
But don’t expect to see any of those classic showdowns in The Fighter, an overcoming-the-odds biopic which culminates a couple of years earlier with Micky’s first world championship bout in London against the division’s then reigning titleholder, Shea Neary (Anthony Molinari). For cinematic purposes, director David O. Russell (Three Kings) was far more interested here in recreating the rampant dysfunction marking his protagonist’s personal life than with merely chronicling the aspiring contender’s rise inside the ring.
Consequently, the character-driven plotline proves particularly compelling, thanks to its examination of Micky’s angst as he contemplates cutting the ties to the albatross hanging around his neck; namely his smothering, tight-knit family. Reminiscent of the cast of Jersey Shore, except with thick New England accents, the trashy clan is run with an iron fist by his domineering mom, Alice (Melissa Leo), a meddling matriarch who doubles as his business manager.
Meanwhile, she’s directed her other son, Dicky (Christian Bale), to serve as Micky’s trainer. An exploit that fail miserable, as Dicky is a washed-up boxer with a crack pipe dream of mounting a comeback, despite a bad drug habit and regular run-ins with the law. The boys also have seven gum-smacking, couch potato sisters sporting mullets who function as a veritable Greek chorus inclined to rubber stamp their momma’s every wish, however unreasonable.
Micky finally summons up the gumption to do something about his family always frustrating his potential after he falls in love with Charlene (Amy Adams), a college-educated bartender offering him the kind of encouragement and support that he really needs. The proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back arrives when he brings her home to meet the folks only to have them tarnish her name with unsubstantiated gossip designed to wreck their budding romance before it even has a chance to blossom.
That unwarranted attempt at sabotage has a salutary effect on Micky who steels his resolve to find a capable corner man to replace Dicky in order to begin his inexorable assault on the boxing crown. A fitting tribute to a real-life Rocky and Adrian featuring a quartet of inspired performances by Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Melissa Leo and Amy Adams.
20th Century Fox Home Entertainment
Rated R for profanity and sexuality.
DVD Features Dysfunctional Family Dramedy
John (John C. Reilly) is a sad sack who has been hoping to reconcile with his wife ever since she dumped him a half-dozen years ago. But Jamie’s (Catherine Keener) announcement that she’s about to marry Tim (Matt Walsh) sends the socially awkward loser into a tailspin that leaves him as lonely and depressed as ever. So, half out of pity, half hoping he might finally meet someone new, she invites John to a party where he proceeds to drive away ever woman he meets with his transparent display of emotional neediness.
Then, while relieving himself into a plant instead of a toilet, he is observed by Molly (Marisa Tomei), a fellow reveler who doesn’t hide her admiration for his ample endowment. Next, the strangers escape to his place to share what at first blush looks like just a lusty one-night stand, given the way she slips out of his apartment before daybreak without saying goodbye.
However, Molly does return for another roll in the hay, though she remains elusive about her personal life, which she only describes as “really complicated.” Smitten, John decides to do a little detective work by following her home and staking out the premises.
As it turns out, the complication is the fact that Molly’s unemployed, 21-year-old son, Cyrus (Jonah Hill), has a bad habit of sabotaging his mom’s romantic relationships before they have a chance to blossom. John can see right through the troublemaker, so he and the manipulative momma’s boy soon begin to butt heads.
Will Molly wise up and cut her dysfunctional son’s umbilical cord? Or will Cyrus be able to manipulate his gullible mother into breaking up with yet another suitor? Superficially, Cyrus’ storyline may sound a lot like Step Brothers, which by the way also starred John C. Reilly, except that there he played one of the interfering sons along with Will Ferrell.
But where that knee-slapper relied on silly slapstick to generate laughter, this relatively-sophisticated affair is a thoroughly-engaging dramedy with a droll sense of humor. The plot is plausible, plus each of the principals proves to be an empathetic figure exhibiting an endearing vulnerability in his or her earnest quest for fulfillment on the road to resolution.
Running time: 91 Minutes
DVD Extras: 2 deleted scenes with optional introductions by co-directors Jay and Mark Duplass.
OPENING THIS WEEK
Weekly Previews That Make Choosing a Film Fun
For movies opening December 24, 2010
BIG BUDGET FILMS
Gulliver’s Travels (PG for action, mild epithets and brief crude humor). Overhaul of the Jonathan Swift classic, set in the present, stars Jack Black as an aspiring travel writer assigned to investigate the Bermuda Triangle, only to end up on the mysterious island of Lilliput where he towers over its diminutive inhabitants. Cast includes Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, Amanda Peet and Billy Connolly.
Little Fockers (PG-13 for profanity, drug use and pervasive sexual humor). Third installment of the Meet the Parents franchise finds overprotective dad (Robert De Niro) questioning whether his underachieving son-in-law (Ben Stiller) will be a good enough provider for his daughter (Teri Polo) and twin grandchildren (Daisy Tahan and Colin Baiocchi). Star-studded cast includes Blythe Danner and Oscar-winners Barbra Streisand and Dustin Hoffman, as well as nominees Owen Wilson, Harvey Keitel and Laura Dern.
True Grit (PG-13 for intense violence and disturbing images). Coen Brothers remake of the John Wayne Western about a U.S. Marshal (Jeff Bridges) who helps a 14 year-old girl (Hailee Steinfeld) track down her father’s murderer (Josh Brolin). With Barry Pepper, Ed Corbin and Oscar-winner Matt Damon.
INDEPENDENT & FOREIGN FILMS
Country Strong (PG-13 for sexuality and mature themes). Relationship drama about a fading country music star (Gwyneth Paltrow) whose marriage ends up in trouble when she goes on tour with an up-and-coming singer/songwriter (Garrett Hedlund) accompanied by her husband (Tim McGraw) and a beauty queen (Leighton Meester) just breaking into the business.
Hadewijch (Unrated). Meditative character study about a nun (Julie Sokolowski) expelled from the convent for being a Christian fanatic who unwittingly ends up befriending the members of a Muslim terrorist cell. With Yassine Salime, Karl Sarafidis and David Dawaele. (In French and Arabic with subtitles).
The Illusionist (Unrated). An animated adventure about an aging French magician (Jean-Claude Dnda) who ventures to Scotland where he gets a new lease on life with the help of a troubled teenager (Eilidh Rankin) who has a naïve sense of wonder. (In English, Gaelic and French with subtitles).
Nénette (Unrated). Endangered species documentary about a 40 year-old orangutan who has lived most of her life caged in the primate house of a Parisian zoo. (In French with subtitles).
Secret Sunshine (Unrated). Melancholic drama about a recently-widowed pianist (Do-yeon Jon) who moves with her young son (Jung-yeop Seon) to her late husband’s hometown where she is beset by another tragedy while being courted by a bumbling mechanic (Kang-ho Song) and trying to come to grips with her grief. (In Korean with subtitles).
Somewhere (R for sexuality, nudity and profanity). Oscar-winner Sofia Coppola wrote and directed this redemption drama about a freewheeling Hollywood matinee idol (Stephen Dorff) who suddenly finds himself contemplating making lifestyle changes after his ex-wife (Michelle Monaghan) unexpectedly gives him custody of their 11-year-old daughter (Elle Fanning).
The Sound of Insects (Unrated). A post-mortem documentary about a hunter who stumbled upon the journal and mummified corpse of a mysterious man who committed suicide by starving himself to death in the forest. Starring Peter Mettler and Alexander Tschemek.