“The Fighter” isn’t about Boxing

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Well, it is, but that’s not the real story. The REAL story is the story of a family and this bunch takes ALL the “fun” out of “dysfunctional.”

Mark Wahlberg stars in this touching and realistic homage to his real life friend, boxer and fellow Bay Stater “Irish” Micky Ward. Both Ward and Wahlberg hail from HUGE Catholic families and both have advanced degrees from the prestigious University of Hard Knocks — Real Life Campus.

The film is very good and the boxing alone makes it worth seeing, but the real story is a once-promising older brother trapped in the haze of drugs and eternally reliving his one glorious moment in the spotlight AND a still promising baby brother of the family emotionally ripped in two by a childlike adoration for his older brother and an earnest desire to “make it” as a boxer in the way the older sibling never could. This movie is an Oscar vehicle and rightly so. Wahlberg turn in a terrific performance as Micky Ward, but Christian Bale is remarkable as the drug addicted, past his prime, Dickie Ecklund.

The best fights in the movie are not in the ring. They are in the living room and kitchen of the Ecklund family home, on the porch of Micky’s girlfriend’s apartment building, and, at one point, in the middle of a Lowell street. Micky is caught in the trap so many young men are when they genuine love their sprawling and brawling families but have come to realize the toxicity of that atmosphere is killing any chance at a real future. As I’ve stated on this blog before, love can smother, wound, and even kill with all the best of intentions.

The women of the film put in fantastic performances, from Micky and Dickie’s mother Alice, who has no idea just how much she favors Dickie over Micky, as well as seven of the raunchiest, ugliest, and most brutal sisters to ever grace the silver screen. Growing up in this household, it’s no wonder Micky Ward eventually won a boxing world title — he had to root hog or die just to get a place at the dining room table and sparring partners abounded, even if they were mostly female.

I was leery of dropping $20 for two tickets on this flick at first, but I can honestly say it was extremely well acted, well scripted and enjoyable. See it. You won’t be disappointed.

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