The Fighter -2010- Win Win -2011-

by George Watches Things

The Fighter and Win Win are both movies set in New Jersey about family and a certain type of sport. It’s combo review time. Let’s do it.

The Fighter stars Mark Wahlberg and Christian Bale as boxing brothers Mickey and Dicky. Mickey is in his prime, despite a small losing streak recently, while Dicky has delusions of returning to his former glory. Melissa Leo won an Oscar for the role of their mother, Alice, and Amy Adams was nominated for Charlene, Mickey’s new girlfriend. (The romantic relationship felt rushed and awkward, and the parts involving Micky’s daughter didn’t really work, probably since there were enough of them, and they didn’t tell us anything new about Mickey.)

Win Win stars Paul Giamatti as a struggling lawyer/wrestling coach who concocts a scheme to keep his practice open awhile longer: become the legal guardian of one of his senile clients, Leo. Only problem… Leo’s grandson shows up out of the blue. He and his wife, Amy Ryan, take him in and treat him like family. It turns out Kyle, Alex Shaffer, is quite good at wrestling.

Win Win made it clear what each of its characters wanted, while The Fighter had some trouble with that. Mickey might be conflicted, but Mark Wahlberg plays it weakly, making it seem like his character suffers from indecision.

Both films are very emotional. In Win Win, when Mike can’t tell Leo what he did, he comes to a realization. (I wouldn’t have been able to watch Mike tell Leo what he did, by the way.) In The Fighter, Dicky started making amends for all the trouble he had caused. Those moments were very touching.

The Fighter didn’t pull on my heartstrings until the end. It only started when Dicky made right on all his mistakes, and pulled the family together. The feeling of elation at the end of the last frame is incredibly powerful. Everyone was happy. These people, for all their fights with each other, were together and joyful at the end. That was the best part.

Win Win was more even, but both films had those moments in which the family fell apart as well as when they came back together. The payoff (the end) of Win Win was sweeter, though. “Wow, this family is dysfunctional,” I said to myself near to the end. But then… they figure it out. Everybody is happy. It was much subtler than The Fighter‘s in-your-face excitedly happy ending.

The end of Win Win came too quickly, while The Fighter got the build just right. I would have added another scene or two after the confrontation in Win Win.

I don’t really like it when people let out screams in movies. It’s fine in movies with high stakes because that makes sense. But the stakes in Win Win weren’t life/death (like in Never Let Me Go, a movie with a very tragic scream in it).

Both movies receive *** (that’s three stars, not a three letter expletive) from me. They’re both win-wins.


  • “More like five weeks.”
  • “That sounds like a big deal.”
  • “He exploded up…”
  • “Can I get you something to drink?”
  • “Really creepy, just saying.”
  • “Not feeling the orange.”
  • Please read: Learning to Love “A Royale with cheese”
  • Also please read: top ten tv opening themes, a guest post I wrote on the wonderful pop culture blog
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  • If you enjoyed either movie, you should check out the other. If you saw and liked both, you should see Little Miss Sunshine.
  • Coming soon: my review of Trust and my best films of the year so far list.