The hit boxing movie The Fighter is a leading contender among the Oscar heavyweights. It’s already rung up six Golden Globe nominations: Best Picture, Best Director (David O. Russell) and one for each of its main cast members (Mark Wahlberg, Christian Bale, Amy Adams and Melissa Leo). But some critics have taken issue with the film’s loose re-telling of the facts for the sake of following Hollywood formulas. Boxing columnist George Kimball writes in the Boston Herald, “The Fighter goes wildly off the rails by doctoring facts and history to produce a redemptive Hollywood denouement.”
There’s nothing wrong with dramatic license per se, but it’s interesting to compare factual vs. fictional versions to understand the creative decisions involved in retelling a story. The following video compares footage from the championship bout between Micky Ward and Shea Neary that provides The Fighter with its climax side by side with footage of the HBO broadcast of the actual fight. The comparison sheds light on how the filmmakers aimed to realistically re-enact the fight while indulging in old-school Hollywood dramatic effects, two approaches that you would think would be at cross-purposes. Did they try to have their cake and eat it, or blend the best of both worlds? See for yourself. (And wait for the end to see one detail that Amy Adams got wrong in her otherwise Oscar-worthy performance as Micky’s girlfriend.)
Melissa Leo is almost certain to earn an Oscar nomination for her turn as Micky’s mother Alice Ward. She has an even more prominent role in the unsung indie flick Racing Daylight.
Here are but a few titles on Fandor where historical events and real life figures are filtered through dramatic and cinematic license:
– Back to Normandy (this documentary revisits a town where a historical drama was shot, and investigates how the movie production affected the lives of the locals).