Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fighter: Plot/Subplot

We saw The Fighter this weekend and it's strange that I love boxing movies so much, but I do. The underdog thing...the stakes...the bare chests, I don't know, but boxing movies work. And The Fighter was amazing. Really and truly amazing. And the negative feedback I've heard is largely that the movie seems unfocused, torn between the main plot of Micky (Whalberg) getting back in the ring and away from his controlling family, and his brother Dickie (Bale) and his crack habit and self-destructive life.

In Bale's Golden Globe acceptance speech, he thanked Whalberg for the strength of his quiet performance, because without the anchor, the loud performances don't work. And this was the movie in a nutshell for me.

I love plot/subplot conversations. I think for a subplot to really influence and add to the plot it has to carry a whole lot of importance - we have to care. And it's a two edged sword, make us care too much and the throughline gets taken over. For me The Fighter was balanced. Writing wise it was perfection:

Dickie has to go to jail so Micky has a chance to get free of him.
Both of them have to watch the documentary so Dickie is inspired to stay clean. Micky has to be inspired to wipe his brother's embarrassment off the town he loves.
Dickie has to come home, desperate to do right by his brother so much so that he apologizes to the people Micky loves - he tries very hard to make things right.
Micky sees this, brings his brother back on his team.

Without the focus on all of those moments, the scene of them walking out into the arena for the title fight amongst the boos with Dickie's hand on his brother's head both of them mumbling his anthem the White Snake song "Here I Go Again" would not have made me feel like leaping to my feet, fists in the air, tears in my eyes.

The movie took it's time to tell all the stories and it worked. All the performances were spectacular. Nuanced and sad and funny. Social Network was good in a cerebral way. This movie was great in an all heart way. Go see it.


Maureen McGowan said...

Oh, I'm so glad you went. This is how I felt about the movie, too, and I despise boxing. I'm not even that big on boxing movies. Except this one. (Trying to think of another boxing movie I loved... can't.)
For me it was less a sports movie and more a movie about families and how the brash, badly-behaving, charismatic members of a family have so much power to crush the more gentle, less confident members of the family.
Eileen's asshat post comes to mind...
I love that Bale won a GG and I jumped off the sofa when Melissa Leo won. She was staggeringly good. And those sisters... wow.
This movie to me is a testament to how people can change and triumph against the odds, a little like Wahlberg's personal story, from some things I've read about his past. Except that he's probably more like Dickie in real life...

Eileen said...

Now I really want to see it! I'd been on the fence before. Living in the Land of Testosterone as I do, I get a little tired of sports movies.

Did you know that Conan O'Brien's sister plays one of the sisters in the movie?

Maureen McGowan said...

Really about Conan's sister? LOL I wonder which one. Those sisters were scary.
Molly was talking about who is the protagonist of that movie, because it is so focussed on the Christian Bale character... But the bravest character in the story is the Amy Adams one because she stands up to the seven scary sisters. Could be a fairy tale. ;) Cast as a fairy tale, Amy Adams plays the knight on a white steed who defends the helpless maiden (the Wahlberg character). grin.

Eileen said...

Totally serious about Coco's sister. She played the sister named Phyllis and she basically looks exactly like Conan, but with boobs.

Molly O'Keefe said...

Melissa Leo was astonishing - that that woman is the same woman who plays the lawyer in Treme? And that both of those women are played by the beautiful woman who stood up to accept that award - amazing. Every performance in that movie is amazing - nuanced and brash and loud and quiet. I loved it. That Whalberg has been trying to get this movie made for like a decade is another aspect of the great story.

And I totally know which sister it is! Those sisters were a WALL of TERROR. Not unlike the sisters in WInter's Bone - we watched that this weekend. The lead Jennifer ????? was nominated for a GG - and she is 100% my pick for Katniss. Holy mother of god was that a riveting performance of a girl with her back against the wall. Amazing.

Side note - hilarious DeNiro last night.

Sinead M said...

Drat, I thought I'd seen so many movies and now I'm way behind again... Both the Fighter and Winter's Bone are on my list.

Maureen McGowan said...

I saw Winter's Bone recently, too. And I agree. She'd make an awesome Katniss.
Melissa Leo was nominated for an oscar a few years ago for a film I still haven't seen... Must look it up and rent it. Frozen River... Gotta love Although it doesn't list her as an academy award nominee... Maybe it was a GG. It was a major nomination.

Eileen said...

Now I've been thinking about your whole thing about plot/subplot. When I was writing chick lit, I tended to use subplots and secondary characters as ways to show how other people handled the same issues facing the protagonist. When I'm writing urban fantasy, I use the subplots as ways to show the heroine a different way to approach her problem. When I'm writing romantic suspense, I tend to use subplots as red herrings and plot twists.

I think I need to think about them more organically. I like what you said about how they're used in The Fighter.

Thanks, Molly. Now I have something new to obsess about!

Chevy Stevens said...

I'm so glad to hear this! I really wanted to see it, and for some reason I also love boxing movies.

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