Happy Birthday to Clint Eastwood, who turns 87 today. This time last year, I did a week of Clint Eastwood reviews (you can see My Top Ten Clint Eastwood Movies HERE, updated to now include Million Dollar Baby).
I still wouldn’t exactly call Eastwood a favorite actor of mine but I’m glad that I finally explored some of his biggest films last year as I liked them a hell of a lot more than I expected to. Million Dollar Baby was still a big omission, however, so I’m glad I’ve finally watched that now as well. And, again, I like another Eastwood movie far more than I was expecting to! And, of course, the awesome Morgan Freeman is in it as well (who I would call a favorite actor & whose birthday is tomorrow – guess what Top Ten List I’ll be doing tomorrow…). 😉 Okay – I’ll shut up & review the movie now.
Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Directed by Clint Eastwood
Based on Rope Burns: Stories from the Corner by F.X. Toole
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Mike Colter, Lucia Rijker, Brían F. O’Byrne, Anthony Mackie, Margo Martindale, Riki Lindhome, Michael Peña, Benito Martinez, Grant L. Roberts
IMDB Top 250 Rank: 172 (as of 01/01/13)
Plot Synopsis: (via Wikipedia)
This film is about an underappreciated boxing trainer, the mistakes that haunt him from his past, and his quest for atonement by helping an underdog amateur boxer achieve her dream of becoming a professional.
I avoided watching this film for years. I was like “It’s a boxing drama? Pass!”. (Kind of funny that I’ve just watched Rocky for the very first time the same week that I watched this. But I digress). Mainly, though, I avoided this because, when it came out, some annoying assholes decided to spoil the whole damn plot. So I’ve always known exactly how this ends. And that pisses me off. I know it’s not always possible to avoid spoilers but, in the case of this film, there was an uproar since what happens went against the beliefs of some people and they felt the need to warn the public (or something like that) before the film had even been fully released (if I remember correctly). Annoying.
Anyway! This is a great film. I expected to possibly find it contrived (films that try too hard to pull on the heartstrings & just come across as phony piss me off as much as people who spoil films). I expected to not be affected by this film since I knew the whole damn plot already. But it’s a good, heartfelt drama that came across as quite genuine and had fantastic actors playing likeable characters you wanted to see succeed. I sure as shit can’t say I exactly “enjoyed” it (holy hell! I don’t do well with serious dramas). But it’s not the overhyped Oscar bait I had kind of feared it might be.
Come to think of it, I guess this means I should also update My Top Ten Best Picture Oscar Winners list at some point with both this & Rocky. That list includes all 50(ish) Best Pictures that I’ve seen and I have to say that both these damn boxing dramas potentially break into my top ten. Easily top 20 for sure. I’ll have to think about it some more! They’re certainly my favorite boxing movies (Raging Bull didn’t thrill me…). 😉
It’s a shame that Hilary Swank kind of disappeared into bad movie obscurity after this & Boys Don’t Cry (a movie that manages to be even more depressing than this one). Clearly these sort of heart wrenching dramas did suit her but you can’t blame her for trying other things – Starring in nothing but these sort of films would probably mess with your head eventually. I really liked her character in this. Her enthusiasm and single-minded determination are infectious in the same sort of way that made us all like Rocky Balboa and to want him to succeed.
Swank & Eastwood make a great team and their relationship by the end of the film is beautiful & heartbreaking. Million Dollar Baby probably gets somewhat ignored compared to Eastwood’s full-on “guy” movies & bromances but, as great as I think he was in dude movies with the likes of Lee Van Cleef, his mentor/protégée and ultimately father/daughter-like relationship here is a welcome change (and just as good & valid as the bromances). Swank & Eastwood make this film.
But there’s still some male camaraderie for anyone needing that as well. Freeman plays Eastwood’s ex-boxer friend (and… co-owner? or maybe just a trainer living in the gym Eastwood owns. feel free to correct me if I’m wrong). Anyway, I love Freeman and he’s as great as always and another reason why I ended up liking this film much more than I’d been expecting. There’s a story on the side involving skinny little Jay Baruchel wanting to be a boxer & Freeman taking him under his wing. I really liked this story as well (plus that cool confrontation involving Freeman & one of the young boxers). The main story involving Swank is of course the most important but it was good to get a bit more to the movie besides just that.
I just have to end by saying: Oh man – I hated the f*%k out of Swank’s family in this! Which made her character all the more likeable. To put a horrible upbringing behind her & to try to live her dream is the uplifting sort of message people look for in a good story. Which is another reason why I think some people were probably angered by the ending of this film. What IS the ultimate message at the end? But life isn’t always fair & a Hollywood ending in real life is rare. I do watch movies for escapism and do prefer a happy ending but I also can’t get angry at a movie telling a story in a realistic way. I think some people felt cheated by this film. I think we were given a good film with powerful performances & a message of determination and friendship. It’s not an easy watch but it’s a good film I’m glad to have finally seen.
My Rating: 8/10