Monday, 29 August 2011

Down With ... The Fighter

Finally caught up with The Fighter, the only one of this year's Best Picture Oscar nominees that I missed but wanted to see. It's a relatively lo-fi "true story" that charts the rise of the boxer Micky Ward alongside both his brother-trainer Dicky Eklund's struggle with crack addiction, and his own struggle with an overbearing and highly combustible family. It's got some great angles, like the slow realisation that the film crew documenting Dicky are actually interested in his drug problems and not his earlier boxing career, but it really stands out in its performances. In particular Christian Bale, who delivers a pretty remarkable turn as the frazzled but talented Dicky (again in anorexic-method mode à la The Machinist). But the whole cast pulls together to make for a compelling and enjoyable tale, especially in gradually getting the viewer behind characters such as Micky and Dicky's harridan mother, who spends much of the film as a borderline monster. And it doesn't hurt to have another great turn from Amy Adams, though I do say that as someone who has nursed a crush on her since Enchanted.

Grade: B+ (high +2 on the Leeper Scale)

By contrast, I had practically no interest in the less well-received 2003 comedy, Down With Love. We recorded it quite a few months ago on a whim, and finding ourselves in-between DVD series last night, decided to give it the benefit of the doubt ... well, for 10 minutes or so. But how wrong could we be? While it's certainly no work of genius, it was considerably better than we'd expected. Extremely stylishly shot, it lies somewhere in-between a pastiche, a parody and a homage of the 1960s rom-coms of Doris Day and Rock Hudson that play with the rising status of women in society. Renée Zellweger plays a proto-feminist writer whose book, the eponymous Down With Love, aims to elevate the status of women by revealing their subservience to love and marriage, while Ewan McGregor plays a rakish journalist who sets out to seduce her and undermine her book's ethos. As noted above, the film both mocks and celebrates its sources, and it's not absolutely clear to what end (post-feminism?), but it's done pretty infectiously with some wry double entendre and great repartee between the leads. And it's more than ably supported by the likes of David Hyde Pierce (in full Niles-mode). So, I guess the lesson is: don't judge a book from its cover.

Grade: B- (high +1 on the Leeper Scale)

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