It’s always very hard to judge the most recent winner – especially today when you have so many awards, web sites etc that cover all performances and make you form an opinion about a specific piece of work before you have even seen it. In the case of Melissa Leo, I expected a lot – her sweep of the pre-Oscar awards, her reviews and everything else indicated a great performance. Well…as you can see, I have to disagree here.
In The Fighter, Melissa Leo plays Alice Ward – the tough, ambitious and controlling mother of Micky and Dicky, two brothers with different careers in the boxing ring. Alice Ward is the kind of mother we already know from other movies – she is not only a mother but also a manager, she tries to get her sons ahead while controlling every single aspect of their life. It’s the kind of character that makes it easy to root against but in the end, there is almost always an obligatory scene with some tears when we learn that everything she does is out of love.
But even though Melissa Leo does not really work very well with her co-stars in the beginning, the chemistry among the cast improves as the movie goes on. In the later scenes, she develops a believable relationship with Christian Bale and both actors succeed in using a similar acting style that creates a believable mother-son-relationship.
But most of the time, Melissa Leo simply fails to impress because the character is put into so many hard-to-buy situations. Her conversation with Amy Adams and Mark Wahlberg is done so annoyingly, her big eyes when she first learns about Amy’s character are so exaggerated, the scene when she drives to Micky’s house with her 5000 daughters is so silly. Not even a few more serious looks during the whole proceedings can save this performance – on the contrary, they rather look like a desperate attempt by Melissa Leo to keep herself from crossing the line from character to caricature but, unfortunately, she crosses this line too often.
A sometimes entertaining piece of work that failed to impress me in most parts.