Thursday, 30 June 2016

June Blindspot: Raging Bull

Raging Bull, 1980
Directed by Martin Scorsese

I have a big confession to make.... I really did not enjoy Raging Bull.

I know, I know. How can I not love this movie? It's regarded as one of Scorsese's best films and is a pop culture icon. However, I just really didn't care for it. I found Jake La Motta to be someone I had absolutely no sympathy for, and nor did I find I had any sympathy for any of the other characters either. And I know that was probably the point, but films like that make it a lot harder to love.

Anyway, Raging Bull is sort of an anti-biopic about Jake La Motta, a boxer with a complicated personal life. It takes us through the years with his rise to fame and his absolute crash later in life. Jake is someone who is sexist and paranoid and domestic abuser. He's angry and flippant and completely crazy. And I know this is the story of a real person, but it's hard to get behind a movie where a man beats his wives and seems to learn pretty much nothing. After getting married a second time to the extremely young Vickie, Vickie doesn't seem to be exactly innocent either. However, she's young and wants to have a life outside of her controlling and violent husband. But anytime she goes out, Jake is paranoid she's sleeping with someone else. And then there's Jake brother, Joey, who is also crazy. While less paranoid than Jake, Joey keeps things from his brother but also often encourages him. It's a messed up family and Jake is a very messed up person.

Honestly, I'm not exactly sure why I didn't like Raging Bull. I find I hardly ever enjoy boxing movies, but I did think I would like this one. However, the performances are extraordinary here. De Niro just knocks it out of the park, winning his second Oscar for this performance. Famous for being extremely method for this role and for both packing on the muscle and then packing on all the extra pounds for the second half of the film, De Niro brings absolute rage and paranoia to this film. It was almost worth sitting through just for him. But I would also be remiss to not mention Joe Pesci. Honestly, to me, he's still the robber from Home Alone, but discovering all the work he did with Martin Scorsese has been a revelation. Pesci is also so fantastic in this role. After falling for his performance in Goodfellas, he is also so spot on here as Joey. He and De Niro have a great chemistry together, both for brotherly bonding (of which there is little) and for the absolute fights (of which there are many). He absolutely deserved his nomination.

I'm disappointed in myself that I didn't like this more. However, there just seems to be something about Scorsese movies that I never seem to enjoy. Admittedly The Departed has grown on me, but I thought Goodfellas was just alright and I really didn't care for Hugo at all. So there does seem to be a trend. It's a shame I don't care for his films more, but they just don't seem to be to my taste.


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