Classic Film Review: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

And the Oscar Goes to:

Million Dollar Baby, 2004

Directed by: Clint Eastwood

Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman

 

Million Dollar baby is an American sports-drama film, centring around Margaret Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank, Logan Lucky), a waitress who aspires to become a professional boxer. After Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood, Unforgiven) initially rejects her due to her gender, he eventually accepts and becomes her manager. She eventually begins having matches which ultimately lead to a shot at the World Title.

Normally having an actor narrate the film takes away from the film, however Eddie Dupris’ (Morgan Freeman, Unforgiven) narration helps give this film a documentary-style feel, which ultimately benefits it greatly, and the end reveal of why he was narrating it is satisfying. Brilliantly acted and well-written (which isn’t surprising considering Clint Eastwood, also director of Unforgiven, was leading and directing, and the screenplay was written by Paul Haggis, who would go one step beyond his Best Screenplay nomination this year by winning with 2005’s Crash), the film had so much more than simply a woman boxer.

Adding a rags-to-riches story (with her being simply a waitress who stole leftover food to get by) was nice, but the depth to which the characters are presented is fantastic. Dupris being a former boxer who is poor himself is nice, but the connection they presented with him and Dunn is beautiful; Dunn’s poor relations with former boxers (at the beginning a boxer leaves his management to see World Title opportunities, something Dunn was hesitant to give) adds emotion to Fitzgerald’s rise and allows a nice exchange where Dunn contemplates whether she’s ready; and Dunn’s family story (constantly going to church and sending letters to his estranged daughter in hopes of a reconciliation) all add to a well-rounded and developed cast of characters.

All of this leads to a brutally emotional climax (one I was not expecting going in to this film) which is remarkably both satisfying and devastating. An uplifting and crushing film, it is so much more than simply a boxing film about a woman.

 

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