and sometimes poetry

The Fighter (2010) | Review by Mark Leidner

The Fighter was a punchy little welterweight of a film. The scenes kept jabbing me in the face with good acting, especially by Christian Bale, who plays a pugilist mastermind as addicted to crack as he is to the limelight. Mark Wahlberg uppercuts through the nonsense of his screeching sisters and mother with a real boxer’s only weapon outside the ring: reticence. Then when he’s in the ring it’s all boom, crazy good punching. My favorite scene is at the end when you think he’s going to lose, maybe, but then he… well, I won’t ruin it for you. So the ringside scenes are awesome, but just as awesome is the general exfoliation this film provides of the blackhead-potholed skin of Masshole culture. It seems like every time I turn around there’s another satisfying yarn coming out about Boston or Massachusetts, as if the only compellingly poor white people left on the planet are all corralled in its dive bars and dilapidated white houses. The Town comes to mind. As does Gone Baby Gone. As does The Edge of Darkness. As does The Departed. Though this argument is probably specious. Nevertheless! Hannah said it’s because everyone loves those awesome Massachusetts accents. Its lilts of shame and gnarls of pride. Each syllable an aria of crushed blue-collar dreams. The crack of cinema.

At several points in this movie I admit the thought throbbed euphorically through my head, “I could take up boxing…” That’s the power of good movies. They make that tiny flame inside you that the real world is so bent on extinguishing, reignite for just a moment, and flicker evanescently. It says you too could be anything. This thing. This image you are seeing… could be you. There is a part where Christian Bale is high as balls on crack, talking about how good it feels to get high as balls on crack. You feel like you felt when you were young, he almost moans, everything was in front of you. In front of you, he repeats. Then you come down, and you have to get that feeling back again, so you have to get high again. Which struck a chord with me because I often feel like my own moment of greatness has passed. That I had a chance at glory, or love, or power, but it passed me by because I was drinking, or playing video games, or writing poetry instead of living my life. But then you write one good line. One good image. And you feel young again. Life, that tiny thread, got suddenly infinite. Then the next morning you feel dead again. What happened? So you try to write a new poem. And maybe you do. Maybe you feel that same delicious interconnectedness with all things. But more likely you spend an hour, or two, or twenty-four, or a month, or a whole year of your life staring soullessly at computer screen, trying to get that feeling of unbridled possibility back. I used to think poetry was what separated me from the problems of people like crackheads and boxers and the uncultured denizens of Lowell, Massachusetts. But it’s just another obnoxious hinge in the same, universal door.

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