My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 69: Melissa Leo as Alice Ward in "The Fighter" (Best Supporting Actress Ranking)

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.

The reason why this performance did not work for me is a combination of various elements – on the one hand, she is too over-the-top in a lot of scenes (the scene with her throwing the plates…I thought this kind of acting had died with Susan Hayward) or completely uninteresting in the others. She establishes her character extremely one-note right in the beginning and she stays on that note for the whole movie. There is a scene at the beginning when she is crying in a car, disappointed by the behaviour of her son Dicky. But this scene comes much too sudden because before this moment Melissa Leo failed to establish any kind of emotional chemistry with her male co-stars and so what could have been a moving and effective scene only felt out-of-place in the context of the movie and the character of Alice.

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.


dinasztie said...

Jacki Weaver was robbed!

Leo's speech annoyed me so much. It was offensive and not because she said "f#ck".

I loved the Susan Hayward hint. :D

Anonymous said...

Susan would never throw that many plates around.

Louis Morgan said...

She failed to impress me either, I really do not understand the reviews that said she gave a tour de force performance, how did they see that? Anyways although she probably is better than a few yet listed, I really do not care that she has been placed this low.

Anonymous said...

She was good but disappointing, I think Hailee Steinfeld was miles better!

Anonymous said...

I saw this coming. It's definitely a love or hate it performance, and I'm on the love side. But I'm not all that upset with her placement.

Melissa Leo seems to be a very divisive person.

Anonymous said...

I just saw this performance two days ago, and I actually enjoyed it. It's true that some of the factors of Leo's performance are over the top or out of place ( when she goes to Mickys house with her daughters, when she cries in the car with Dicky), but overall she kept herself comfortably on the border between overacting and acting appropriately. Also, I think Leo showed a suprising depth in her character. For example, in Mickys first fight, she is screaming and crying in the audience, but a few minutes later, she is laughing and popping champagne in the car. This shows Alice's superficiality and facade that she is a loving mother and cares for Micky when she is really selfish and favors Dicky

Nues20 said...


Simple as that those two were robbed!

joe burns said...

I don't care for her much either: She's great in Frozen River (You didn't like her in that much either!), but not this. It's an empty role and she is too limited in her interpretation of it.