Million Dollar Baby
- Clint Eastwood
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is an old trainer who owns a muddled boxing gym and runs it with the help of former boxer and alumni Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris (Morgan Freeman), who even has a small room in that place, where he lives. One day an aspiring boxer, Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), comes in looking for Frankie to train her. He is not interested, mainly because she is a woman and because she is rather old for the sport. But Maggie persists and stays there.
Million Dollar Baby is based upon a collection of short stories written by F.X. Toole. Eastwood saw greatness in the material and quietly shot his movie without much help from production company Warner Bros. He also opted for a slow roll-out in theaters, giving the movie its time to breath and grow on people. And itís rather a funny coincidence, since thatís just how his movie actually plays.
The movie is nothing more than the tale of three lonely individuals and the bonds they form with each other. At its core you could say it is a boxing movie, but believe me, boxing serves merely as an excuse to tell an extraordinary story about redemption, guilt, perseverance, family and friendship. Paul Haggisí screenplay is in no rush to tell its story. We get three-dimensional characters that grow on us rather slowly, but whose stories are immersed in our feelings faster than we thought. And itís in the details that the movie creates these fascinating individuals, whether showing Frankie receiving letters from his estranged daughter or showing him praying at night, or whether having Frankie and Eddie have a conversation about socks, or whether showing Maggie visiting her family or learning she doesnít care about a television. And yet we never feel like weíre being manipulated, but on the other hand, we feel like we know these people. And therein lies some of its greatness.
It also helps that the movie flows effortlessly from start to finish. Clintís impeccable direction has a lot to do with it, but the screenplay and Morgan Freemanís pitch-perfect voice-over are also part of why it works so well. And thatís not to mention Joel Coxís editing, which brings excitement to the boxing sequences without going for an over-the-top approach, but also serves the story well in the quieter, more intimate scenes. And since itís time to praise the team behind the technical aspects of the movie, Iíd also like to mention Tom Sternís photography and Clintís perfectly suitable score.
By now most of you have heard that there is a rather abrupt plot development in the third act of the movie that changes everything. I wonít spoil it for you but Iím going to do my best to talk about it without saying what actually happens. That said, if you donít want even a hint, jump to the next paragraph now (something I actually recommend if you havenít seen the movie). If youíre still with me, Iíd just like to say that the movie is not greater because of what happens at the end, but is great because of the whole. I actually felt absolutely intrigued by all the time the movie spent mostly on boxing. I think it is on par with Raging Bull at that, albeit in a different way. The dialogue seems like it came directly from heaven, using metaphors for life and explaining the charactersí motivations without preaching at all. But then something happens and we realize Clint was preparing us for it all the way. The entire movie feels like a tragedy without us really knowing why. And all Iím going to say is that you should see the movie from the point of view of the characters, not yours. To generalize is pointless, because this is a movie about these three individuals and the point theyíve come in their lives. It makes us reflect upon the power of life and death, of the fragility of oneís existence, and the things we might be able to do, or not do for that matter, when faced with certain circumstances.
Performances range from the perfect to the uber-perfect, something that actually doesnít exist, therein making my point a bit clearer. Clint Eastwood delivers the performance of a lifetime as a troubled individual disguised as to not let anyone break that shell. But then Maggie comes and itís a different story, as the wonderful scene in the car after theyíve visited her family shows in a heart-breaking manner. Hilary Swank, on the other hand, proves that her Oscar was not a fluke, with a performance both dignified and temperamental, physical yet overly internal, intense yet fragile at its core. And Morgan Freeman does not rely on showy gimmicks to prove heís in complete control of his craft, while also delivering what has to be one of the best voice-over works ever.
A movie of quiet resonance, thatíll stay with you forever...
ďGirly, tough ainít enough.Ē
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Other reviews of Million Dollar Baby (2004): Groucho