Cinerama: Million Dollar baby

Posted: September 11, 2009 in Cinerama

Million Dollar baby

Mike Derderian

The moment I walked out of the theatre, a sudden feeling of sadness overwhelmed me. I felt bruised, defeated and numb—as if I was punched right in the face—left with nothing but a wide-open gashed eyebrow and a broken bleeding nose. Yet, something deeply embedded in my worn out soul made me feel like a million dollar man.

That’s how you will feel when Clint Eastwood’s Oscar wining movie Million Dollar Baby comes to its sardonic finale and the boxing ring’s lights gradually fade out. Another question rises in one’s mind: Why do bad things happen to good people?

Is it God’s way of showing us that no matter what we do in life or how great we become, there is always something that will bring us down to earth, reminding us mortals that we trot on an endless road of ambitious goals? A path that we all hope one day will lead us to self-recognition and peace of mind before we are forever lowered to our deathbeds.

Now, dead persons won’t pay attention to the murmurs of those laying them to rest, but they will listen to their own inner voices gently asking: Did I achieve something worthwhile?

If you ask this question to Maggie Fitzgerald, the iron-fisted boxer and protagonist in Eastwood’s masterpiece, then I imagine her answer to be: “I did it all, but why did it have to end this way!”

The Million Dollar Baby is a heart-wrenching saga that revolves around three characters, an old boxing trainer; an aged ex-boxer; and an aspirant female boxer, who all share the same passion: Boxing.

It stars Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel, Brian F. O’Byrne, Lucia Rijker and Hillary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald.

Hilary Swank certainly earned every ounce of the Oscar trophy she won in 2005—best actress in a leading role—for her electrifying portrayal of Fitzgerald, a feisty girl hoping to become a professional boxer with the help of old boxing grouch Frankie Dunn (Eastwood).

Swank, who won her first Oscar for portraying Teena Brandon, the troubled girl with the gender crises, in Boys Don’t Cry back in 1999, managed to prove once again that she has a flair for portraying complex characters that are faced with physical and mental challenges.

Anyone watching Swank in this 132-minute film will realize that she was up to the physical challenge of her role. Swank’s well-built frame—obviously the result of strenuous months of training through which she gained nearly 20 pounds of muscles—helped in enhancing the credibility of her sizzling performance. It wasn’t just a case of wearing gloves and donning boxer shoes that made her act believable, as much as it was the heart and soul efforts she gave for a film supported by an all-star cast of two veteran actors.

The last Eastwood and Freeman collaboration was back in the 1992 cowboy revenge epic Unforgiven, a partnership that proved fruitful and Oscar worthy—it won best picture while Eastwood went home with the best director award.

Well, it seems that the magic still works for the two geriatric stars, who were able to create an on screen charisma through their cynical, yet passionate, double act—especially in the final half hour of the film.

Eddie ‘Scrap Iron’ Dupris (Freeman), who works at Dunn’s boxing gym the Hit Pit, is the complete opposite of Frankie Dunn. He is gentle, soft-spoken and friendly, whereas Dunn is a rough and tough grouch with a sultry tongue.

“Girly, tough ain’t enough,” mockingly Dunn tells Maggie in an attempt to put her down and make her give up her plans of becoming a boxer after asking him to train her.

Eastwood’s camera was more inclined towards the general sense of the film—dark, slow and filled with shadow—where the characters lurked until a speck of light guided them again into the limelight.

Freeman’s voice narration was superb for it was informative and inspirational as it helped in introducing the viewers to the general lines of each character, no matter how trivial or important they appeared to be. The man knows how to talk, no wander he was Tim Robbins’ choice for the Shawshank Redemption narrator.

In addition to the adrenaline rush found in Maggie’s short-round fights, knocking out her opponents one by one, the acoustic guitar music played in the background every now and then was pure magic that added to the film’s cutting edge atmosphere.

Million Dollar Baby is a forceful jab at the white flag policy that teaches us one should never give up easily or feel frustrated no matter how many times he kisses the canvas; its all about having the determination, stamina and passion to fulfill one’s dream even in death.

“Anybody can lose one fight, anybody can lose once; you’ll come back from this, you’ll be champion of the world,” says Dupris talking to frail-figured Danger Barch (Baruchel), a slow-learner who was given a brutal lesson by some boxing bully at the Hit Pit.

In the end all I can say to you my dear reader is that once you’ve seen this movie you’ll want to take on the world with your bare fists and thank God for the things you have and take for granted.

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