MILLION DOLLAR BABY
**** (out of 5)
January 28, 2005
Clint Eastwood as FRANIE DUNN
Hilary Swank as MAGGIE FITZGERALD
Morgan Freeman as EDDIE SCRAP-IRON DUPRIS
Jay Baruchel as DANGER BARCH
Mike Colter as BIG WILLIE LITTLE
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Clint Eastwood
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
I started to hear the buzz about “Million Dollar Baby” before I even knew what it was about. Late in 2004, I kept hearing the name in Golden Globe nominations and peppered among Oscar buzz. And this was before I ever saw one trailer for it.
You see, I live in Columbus, Ohio. Like most Americans, this falls in the great void between New York and L.A. and is often referred to as “flyover country.” With rare exceptions, like the city of Chicago for instance, the movie industry tends to ignore us. Oh sure, Columbus may be the product testing capital of the nation, but the studios really don’t care about what we have to say until they have input from New York and L.A.
So, for those of us who live in flyover country, we don’t get a chance to see movies like “Million Dollar Baby” and other Oscar hopefuls until after the nominations actually come out. I guess we should count ourselves lucky (he writes sarcastically) that we’ve had a chance to evaluate other award winners like “The Aviator” and “Sideways” for the past several weeks.
So, I just can’t watch “Million Dollar Baby” in a vacuum. It’s impossible to dismiss all the critical acclaim prior to its opening, especially when you see ads quoting a critic that says it’s the best movie released by a major studio this year.
Ultimately, “Million Dollar Baby” had a lot to live up to. The best movie of the year, after all.
So was it?
No. “Million Dollar Baby” is a good flick. It’s above average. But it ain’t the greatest of the year. Sorry, Clint.
But it is worth seeing. Even with all the hype surrounding it, you shouldn’t believe everything you see in the trailers or in the paper. By watching the trailers, it just seems to be a female “Rocky.” I asked myself when I first saw the trailers, “Didn’t they do this already with Michelle Rodreguiz in ‘Girlfight’?” It seems like the pretty standard underdog fighter who wants to be a contender and prevails in the face of discrimination and naysayers.
The real gem of “Million Dollar Baby” is that there’s so much more to the movie. No, it’s not just a female “Rocky.” No, it’s not just a boxing movie. Heck, it really isn’t even movie about the fighter. Rather, it’s a movie about Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), a washed up boxing cut-man who pins the end of his career on an underdog girl fighter (Hilary Swank).
Although you’d never know this from the trailers and the hype, this is actually one of the funniest movies of the year. It’s not a comedy, but there is almost as much comic relief and lighthearted moments as there are serious Oscar clips. A lot of this comes courtesy of Morgan Freeman, whose role as Frankie’s partner at the gym offers some hilarious moments. Freeman and Eastwood have a chemistry rarely found on screen. It’s so strong, it manages to overshadow Swank’s performance and the wanna be fighter. I’ll admit I’m not much of a Hilary Swank fan, so even though she did a decent job in this movie, I wasn’t terribly impressed.
There are some noticeable problems in the film. The most glaring piece of weak writing is Maggie’s family. I know the point was to show a white trash family, but they really went overboard here. Whenever they show up, they so reek of the trailer park, and Maggie still loves them. With the abuse she takes at their hands, I couldn’t help but find this a weakness in her character.
Then there’s the ending. Now, don’t worry. I’m not going to spoil anything. Suffice to say, this isn’t the ending you’re gonna expect going into the film. I will say that it presents an interesting alternative to the standard blood and glory cliches you’ll see at the end of fight pictures. However, again, it shows an incredible weakness in Maggie’s character. This isn’t a flaw. It is a weakness. The movie paints itself in a corner, but there were still better ways out.
However, you have to remember that the movie is about Frankie and not Maggie. It is about the choices Frankie makes, not the ones that Maggie does. In this light, it is at least an interesting ending, if not fully satisfying for me.