Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Reviewed on 2009 May 3
The 2004 Oscar® winner for Best Picture, and I didn’t envy the Academy the job of choosing between this or Ray (though I do like this one better).
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is a tough old boxing trainer and gym owner that finds himself taking a new boxer under his wing: Maggie Fitzgerald (Hillary Swank). This is the last thing the curmudgeonly Frank says he needs. Maggie is old (for a boxer), and has no experience. Maggie has none of it and insinuates her way into Frankie’s care, both because of her determination and because Frankie is estranged from his own daughter. Maggie fills that role for him, and he grows to be like a surrogate father to her too. We see why when we meet her disgusting family.
The soft-hearted Frank grows to love Maggie (and so do we). He gets some fights for her and finds out neither of them knew their own strength. Between his training and her determination, she K.O.s her opponents in the first round. Frankie works to get more fights for her, putting her in higher and higher divisions and grumping at his assistant Eddie “Scrap-Iron” DuPris (Morgan Freeman) the whole time.
This sounds simplistic, but there’s a lot more to the movie — for one thing there was a lot of controversy over what Frankie’s character did. The other thing people have noted is the characters seem almost one-dimensional. I admit the Blue Bear almost seems like a Batman villain and Maggie’s family practically crawled straight out of a Saturday Night Live or Second City Television trailer park sketch, or even an Onion headline. I think Eastwood (who directed too) was just trying to get his point across quickly, and even when things were painted in very broad brushstrokes I never felt like he was hitting us over the head with it. The acting was very good and as I watched it again I almost started bawling when Frankie explained the meaning of that Gaelic phrase to Maggie.
Three chocolate morsels, and a protein shake.