Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Hand that Reads #5: Sometimes the Good Guys Win

by JW Schnarr

Recently, at the behest of my daughter, I made some changes to our TV cable package. Monster was sick and tired of missing all her shows on MTV, all those pregnant teenage girls talking about how great it will be to get back to school once their babies arrive...and of course, those crazy Jersey Shore kids.
Okay, I watch that show too. But more importantly I was missing out on the channel I really love, HBO, which comes with Movie Central in the same package. Icing on the cake. I love movies too. Tonight, they were showing a film you've probably all seen in the past couple years, and if you haven't seen it, you probably need to. Put it on your bucket list, or your iPad, or whatever it is you're doing to keep track of all the great things you need to do in your life before you die.

It's "The Fighter". The film came out in 2010, stars Christian Bale and Mark Wahlberg, and was nominated for a bunch of awards when it came out. Wikipedia advises, in fact, it was nominated for seven Academy Awards, winning two.

"The Fighter" follows the story of Micky Ward, kid brother of Dicky Ecklund, a man who once went toe-to-toe with Sugar Ray Leonard and knocked him on his ass before falling apart at the seams and getting hooked on crack. Ward, suffering from a brutal home life that stains every relationship he has, eventually cuts ties with his overbearing mother and 'crackhead' brother in order to focus on one last shot as a boxer.
The film has everything I love about great stories. Bale is amazing as Ecklund, and his charisma draws you in from the start. It's easy to see why little brother Micky is star struck; Ecklund is a superstar. He's everyone's best friend, the life of the party, and the sunshine in Micky's garden. The amazing thing about the dynamic between these two men is that I've seen it before, and perhaps this is why the movie resonates with me as much as it does.

I grew up with these two brothers (there were really three, but one was very young) in my neighbourhood who are exactly like Ward and Ecklund. Much like the movie, the older brother was the star and the younger one was the quiet shrub content to follow his brother around. The older brother was a dynamo; he made the party when he showed up, always laughing, and always having time for his friends. The younger brother carried the beer. He was a great guy in his own right. But quiet, and overshadowed.

Here's where I look at "The Fighter" and see how it could have turned out. A few years ago, addicted to all kinds of drugs, the older brother I grew up with killed himself during the Christmas holidays. His selfish act had the same effect as a bomb going off in the middle of their family dynamic, sending them all spinning off in different directions. We were stunned.
A couple hundred people showed up at his funeral, and they were a weird mix of people from my childhood and twitchy junkies who were getting high even while they talked about the evils of drug use and how everyone needed to steer clear of the junkie life. Classic addict self-loathing.

I think one of the things I really love about "The Fighter" is how it doesn't end like this. I don't want to spoil the film for anyone who hasn't seen it, but come on. You've seen the trailers. You know what the film is about. Besides, it's a true story. Reviewers called the story predictable at times, and that's a fair assessment. You watch the film and you know everything is going to be all right in the end.

Real life, all too often, isn't all right in the end. Real life leaves people horribly scarred and emotionally broken. It destroys bonds like paint thinner on watercolours. And sometimes it forces shadowy shrubs into the blinding light where they were never meant to be. I love this film because it shows me what things could have been like for two brothers, if one of them had just been a little stronger. It also reminds me that sometimes the good guys win.

--JW Schnarr
(JW Schnarr is a writer from Claresholm, AB. He works as a reporter/photographer by day and a horror writer/publisher by night. He is the author of "Things Falling Apart" and Alice & Dorothy.  JW can be reached at )