It’s actually depressing to see his 7 adult sisters lined up on the couch, having never left to define life on their own terms. They are like a giant potato sack race masquerading as a supportive family. Melissa Leo deserved the Oscar she earned playing the mother who clearly adores her sons more than her daughters.
Often it is the fresh voice of an outsider that helps someone recognize how their kooky family may be holding them back instead of helping. Mickey falls in love with Charlene who helps him get some distance from his family.
There is a reason the incest taboo is so pervasive in a majority of cultures. Kids have to leave home for sex.
Leaving home and family to determine who you are, different from them is an important rite of passage. Then you come back to the fold and can appreciate both sides of who they are. Love is really all about, wanting to become a better person.
Mickey’s brother goes to prison and stops doing drugs. He gets out and is able to have an honest conversation with Charlene. He is important to Mickey winning and he knows he has to stay straight to do that well.
My favorite part of this movie is the respect for the complicatedness which keeps the story authentic. Dickie is a complete waste and yet, he figures out how to step up for his brother. Addicts all have both sides to them. Never underestimate the ugliness of the disease of addiction or the power of recovery.
Mickey needs to interrupt the mushy codependence of his family and figure out how to live with his own choices. It’s also crucial for his success that he not just leave them in the dust. The secret to life is the middle ground, rarely either/or solutions.
Christian Bale plays the junkie brother to perfection. He redeems himself and stays straight in order to help his brother. All people who have achieved recovery have accomplished miracles and deserve tremendous respect for enduring that battle every day.