Million Dollar Baby (2005)

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Published on: 2007.06.06

IMDb: Million Dollar Baby
Wikipedia: Million Dollar Baby
Rating: PG-13
(violence, some disturbing images, thematic material and language)
Length: 132 minutes (2:12)
Director: Clint Eastwood
Genre: drama / sports
My Rating: 8 (of 10)
Family-friendly: Probably not.

First of all, I can see why Million Dollar Baby won four Academy Awards. Usually, I can’t understand the Academy’s thinking, but this time they got it right.

Best Actress: Hilary Swank. That’s the truth. Swank delivers a magnificent performance as Maggie Fitzgerald, the 30-something-year-old female from a white trash background who’s out to make something of herself. She fought her way into this world, and fought her way out, so to speak.

Her portrayal of the role was entirely believable, evoking love, jealousy, pity, and some emotions that are too deep-seated to define.

Best Supporting Actor: Morgan Freeman. This shouldn’t come as a surprise. The man’s pulled off powerful roles in movies like The Sum of All Fears, Deep Impact, Se7en, The Shawshank Redemption, and others. His voice alone is enough to send shivers down most people’s spines. Freeman was the perfect choice to narrate Million Dollar Baby, and the perfect choice to play the washed-up former boxer turned gym janitor.

Best Director: Clint Eastwood. On IMDb, Eastwood has over 30 movies to his credit as a director, and more than 60 as an actor. In this one, he pulled off both with a flair that shouldn’t be surprising by now, but it was… perhaps because he’s had a couple of flops. He plays the boxing manager/trainer who never quite got it right, and finally sees his chance with Fitzgerald (Swank).

Best Picture. Other movies that were up for this award include The Aviator, Finding Neverland, Ray, and Sideways. I’d seen all four of the others, not long after they came out, but Million Dollar Baby eluded me. Perhaps it wasn’t advertised well enough.

To be honest, I can’t see how Sideways made that list, and Finding Neverland wasn’t nearly as impressive as the ads made it sound. The Aviator or Ray could have easily won the Best Picture Award — and I personally would have given it to The Aviator, except for one thing — it was too long and not well edited. By the second hour, I was wondering when it would end.

Not so with Million Dollar Baby. I was on the edge of my seat throughout the entire show, wondering with baited breath whether this geeky-looking waitress could box her way to the big time.

For those of you who thought this was just another sports movie, like Rocky but with a girl, let me set you straight. It’s about dreams, yes, but not just boxing dreams. It’s about making it in life, taking that chance, when there is no chance. Stepping out when you can’t see where to step.

Did I say it? Yes, it’s difficult to say it, but it’s better than Rocky. Because it’s about so much more.

The cinematography was impressive in places, but for the most part looked like it was filmed on a low budget, as far as the sets were concerned.

But I haven’t gotten to the best part.

Unlike Rocky, Fitzgerald doesn’t end up where you want her to. Without spoiling the ending, it’s fairly controversial. And the movie has drawn criticism from the Radical Right, as well as from disability rights activists, according to Wikipedia.

Eastwood had a pretty good response for the criticism, saying “I’ve gone around in movies blowing people away with a .44 magnum, but that doesn’t mean I think that’s a proper thing to do.” (Referring obviously to the Dirty Harry movies, among others.)

But a movie is an art form, not something that can be inherently good or evil. It’s more like a tune on the piano — either it sounds good or it doesn’t. This movie is really good, despite what you might feel about the actions of the characters.

I’m just sorry it took me so long to watch it.

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