Sunday, October 21, 2012

Oscar Nominees Reviews: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Million Dollar Baby is a massive emotional punch. By the end of the film, you are completely drained emotionally because of all the things that happen throughout the film. Million Dollar Baby seems like just a regular sports movie for about the first half with above average acting and direction. But in the second half it becomes something more than a sports movie, it becomes an emotional roller coaster that just keeps going down. Rocky, this isn't.

Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank) is a poor girl from Missouri who works a job as a waitress and has virtually no money for food. She goes to a boxing gym and tries to get the help of Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to train her. "I don't train girls," is his response but as the film goes on he grows closer and closer to her. Morgan Freeman also stars as a manager of sorts at the gym.

There are two powerhouse performances in the film. Swank is wonderful and does a lot throughout the movie to demonstrate her characters power and effect. Eastwood gives a massively effective performance as a man that is consumed by guilt. Freeman is solid too but there isn't a lot of reason for him to be in the story. Freeman does the narration, which is awful, but in the end he doesn't have that much use in the story.

The star of the film for me was Eastwood's direction. The way that he uses the dark shadows of the gym is amazing. Most of the film is black and white and it is definitely very gritty.

I have to say that it takes a while to get into the story. Until the last half hour, I just felt that it was an average sports drama with good acting and fantastic directing. But in the end, Million Dollar Baby is something more. The film becomes this emotional powerhouse that is sort of the anti-Rocky. Not all stories have happy endings and Million Dollar Baby is a perfect example of that.

Million Dollar Baby is a very good film. Give it time, the film's payoff is worth it. There is a lot of great things about the film but I don't think it is perfect either. But the emotional punch that is given pushes Million Dollar Baby ahead of the average sports film.

THE FINAL GRADE: B+


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