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Does 'The Fighter' depict the Boston area accurately?

Posted by Rob Anderson  December 9, 2010 01:21 PM

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fighter.jpgIf reviews are any indication, Bostonians who see "The Fighter" this weekend won't just judge it on its acting and plot line alone. The film, which tells the story of real-life boxer Micky Ward, is the latest in a series of movies set in and around Boston, and critics already seem to disagree about how accurate its portrayal of the city is.

On the one hand, Globe film critic Ty Burr, who gave the film three and a half stars, thinks the movie displays a too-bleak picture of Lowell, the town where Ward lived and trained. "I’m curious what Lowell will think of the movie as a whole, since it paints the town a deep, bilious gray," he writes.

A decade-plus of Boston-area movies has rubbed our noses in the yawp of working-class neighborhoods but never as relentlessly as this. The triple-deckers sag with decay and the faces are bloodshot with vanished hopes. You watch half-wondering if there’s a statute for civic libel but also rapt, because Russell makes the place jump with life, his camera swiveling to catch every desperate street-corner showdown.

Ouch.

But that's not how Carlo Rotella, the director of American Studies at Boston College, sees it. In a column yesterday, Rotella awards the film the title of "the new champ of local color" because "gets lots of details just right:"

A historical costume drama set in the half-remembered epoch of the late 20th century, it attends to necessary nuances in the matter of clothes, hair, music (Whitesnake!), and landscape — the silent mills and weathered homes of an industrial city that has seen better days.

Rotella and Burr didn't see different movies — they both seem to agree that the film paints a bleak picture. But where Burr sees an inaccurate caricature Rotella sees a gritty reflection of reality. Moviegoers will decide for themselves with which critic they agree.

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ABOUT THE ANGLE Online commentary and news analysis from the Boston Globe. The Angle is produced by Rob Anderson and Alan Wirzbicki. You can follow Rob on Twitter at @rcand.

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