Million Dollar Baby – Eastwoods Emotional Range

Million Dollar Baby – Eastwoods Emotional Range

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  1. Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman have a combined 7 Oscars between them and another 10 nominations.  These are talented individuals.  It comes as no surprise that a film directed by and starring Clint Eastwood, co-starring Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman, and written by Paul Haggis (Oscar winning scribe of 2004’s Crash) would get some Oscar attention.  Million Dollar Baby (2004) was nominated for 7 Oscars and won 4 of them including the coveted Best Picture.  It is based on stories by F.X. Toole.

    What is it about?

    Frankie (Clint Eastwood) owns a gym and trains boxers… only male boxers.  That is, until he meets Maggie (Hilary Swank).  Maggie is poor, has a bad home life, and only feels happy when she is boxing.  She joins Frankie’s gym and keeps asking Frankie to train her but he won’t.  An ex-boxer and current janitor at the gym, Scrap (Morgan Freeman), gives Maggie some pointers even though Frankie told him not to.  She starts to get a little better and finally convinces Frankie to train her.

    He agrees to train her, then pass her off to a "real manager" who can take the reigns of her career from there.  Once she gets her first fight and Frankie sees that her manager is no good, he decides he’s going to continue to train and manage her.  She, of course, is thrilled.  She also destroys all of her competition for a while.  She wants a title shot, but Frankie has started to become very protective of her as if she is his own daughter (his real daughter won’t respond to his numerous letters).  He is reluctant to let her have the title fight because it is against a woman who is known for fighting dirty and injuring her opponents.  He finally gives in and lets her fight… a decision that will change both of their lives forever.

    Is it any good?

    Million Dollar Baby tells a gripping story full of intricate characters.  It’s a bit depressing at times, but life is sometimes depressing.  While there are flashes of your stereotypical boxing film depicting the rise of a competitor culminating in their championship bout, the relationships make this film unique.  What’s especially interesting is the father/daughter style relationship that is built between Frankie and Maggie… two hard-headed individuals.  Watching their relationship build is a joy.

    Another great thing about this film is that Clint Eastwood shows some emotional range.  Usually you see Eastwood play the hardened old man who is stoic throughout most of a film.  In Million Dollar Baby he smiles, cries, cracks jokes, and is even sweet (crazy, right?!).  Hilary Swank is also out of this world as the stubborn, won’t-take-no-for-an-answer Maggie.  And, of course, Morgan Freeman is great… especially since he does some narration.  He is the best narrator in all of Hollywood.

    The problem with this film is that the b-story doesn’t really interact with the a-story at all.  It involves a goofy fighter with a lot of heart, Danger (a great supporting turn from Jay Baruchel).  He wants to be a good fighter so badly, but the other guys at the gym make fun of him and even beat him up.  This story is interesting, but doesn’t affect Frankie and Maggie’s trip to the top of the female boxing world hardly at all.  It helps to develop Frankie and Scrap a little as characters, but it should do more.  This film would almost be the same without Danger in it.

    Nolan’s Grade:  A-

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