Over the weekend, PJ and I went to see The Fighter, starring Mark Wahlberg as professional boxer Micky Ward. The film traces his rise to a welterweight title after overcoming a professional decline caused in part by his reliance on his half-brother and drug-addicted trainer, Dicky Eklund. Here’s the trailer:

I didn’t know anything about this true story before seeing the movie, and I think that helped – -I at least could imagine various outcomes. But basically, The Fighter is a genre pic that adheres pretty closely to its genre–think a modern-day Rocky: boxer gets shafted by poor management and training and has to make good on his dream of winning a title by dumping his family and going it alone. There’s nothing new here cinematically speaking, but  it’s an enjoyable film nevertheless because the actors are so good.

Mark Wahlberg is solid as Micky. He’s a charismatic, engaging actor. There’s something about him that makes you instantly like his character, to root for him to win.

The three main supporting performances are really where this film’s greatness lies. Christian Bale is wonderful as Dicky. If the critics awards are any indication, Bale will likely win the Oscar this year, which would be well deserved. As with most of his roles, Bale immerses himself in this character. In doing so, we see all of Dicky’s hopes and dreams and failures and embarrassments, often in one glance or exchange with his brother. Much is said of the physicality of Bale’s performances — his weight loss, etc. This part is another example of how he shapes himself into a part. He deserves to win.

Amy Adams plays Micky’s girlfriend, Charlene. It’s difficult for me to ever forget that it’s Amy Adams on-screen, but her ability to play this part is also wonderful. I kept comparing it to her role in Doubt. She has an incredible range for a relatively young actress. She’s also likely to be nominated for an Oscar this year, but I doubt that she’ll win.

One reason she might not win is that her co-star, Melissa Leo, who plays Dicky’s and Micky’s mother, is also likely to be nominated. She’s amazing. Her role is a little smaller than Bale’s or Adams’s, but whenever she’s on-screen, you can’t help but watch everything she’s doing. I think she has a good chance of winning supporting actress this year. Like Bale, she inhabits her character. It never felt that she was acting like this woman; she was simply embodying this woman. It would be tempting to play her as the villain in this movie — the terrible mother who almost ruins her sons’ lives. Leo makes her more complicated than that. She is a terrible mother, but like most terrible moms she loves her boys and wants to do right by them. She’s just too weak to so it. Leo would also be deserving win.

All in all, this is a good, solid, entertaining movie.