Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Million Dollar Baby

Million Dollar Baby; drama, USA, 2004; D: Clint Eastwood, S: Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, Morgan Freeman, Jay Baruchel

Frankie Dunn is a down-and-out boxing trainer with a lot of problems; his daughter Katie broke every contact with him, his promising boxing protege Willie left him, he is leading a broke gym alone with his friend Scrap. One day he meets Maggie, a waitress who wants to become a successful boxer. She asks him to be her trainer, but he refuses because he only trains men. Still, after being persistent, Frankie agrees and starts coaching her. Eventually, Maggie becomes an undefeated women boxing champion, until the fight with an woman who uses foul play. She kicks Maggie from the back, who falls and is left paralyzed. Frankie is devastated, especially when she begs him to euthanize her. He agrees.

After it's premiere in December 2004, drama "Million Dollar Baby" surprised a lot of people by wining numerous awards; some complained due to the fact that the ultimate boxing film "Raging Bull" was left without those awards, some due to the fact that Eastwood won the award instead of Scorsese. But all those complaints have nothing to do with the film itself, just with the aftermath it left. Many critics praised him, among them Dean Šoša, who called it "Perfect". I have a lot of respect towards "Baby" on some levels, but its crucial flaws prevent me to call it excellent. "Baby" didn't exactly deserve all those awards, but at the same it didn't win them without a reason because it's better than Eastwood's previous film "Mystic River"; it has a smooth structure, real characters, a touching story, and Eastwood's direction is old fashioned but good because he managed to reduce all his typical stereotypes to the minimum (although they are still resent; i. e. Maggie's family is portrayed black and white as being only evil). The relationship between Maggie and Frankie is very cute; at first he refuses to be her trainer but in the end he changes his mind (this unoriginal cliche is one one of the movies flaws) when he spots her in his gym training and his friend Scrap asks him; "Who is that girl down there"? When he tells her he accepts being her trainer, she burst out of happiness and hugs him, making him say; "This is already turning into a mistake". The woman's boxing sequences are brilliant, but the last third of the story, which is revolving around the issue of euthanasia, is entirely a cheap soap opera and makes the film unbalanced as a whole. Actually, despite good intentions, that last third is sometimes downright pathetic, manipulative and overlong. "Million Dollar Baby" is a competently made film, but he doesn't leave the impression of something special.


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