My current Top 5

My current Top 5


Number 32: Million Dollar Baby (Best Picture Ranking)

After Unforgiven, Million Dollar Baby was Clint Eastwood’s second triumph at the Oscars. It tells the story of female boxer Maggie Fitzgerald who convinces a reluctant Frankie Dunn to train her – Maggie’s natural talents help her to get straight to the top until a tragic accident changes her – and Frankie’s – life forever.

Million Dollar Baby is a beautiful, quiet character study that mostly revolves around Frankie and Maggie. Both are lonely souls, rejected by their relatives, struggling to get ahead. Clint Eastwood staged this story in a very dark environment – shadows hide the character’s faces, people appear out of the dark. It’s a very gloomy story that even in Maggie’s most triumphant moments keeps a very quiet and intimate atmosphere. It’s the strength of the performers and the wonderful use of music of cinematography that creates this wonderful aura that dominates this movie and it’s to Clint Eastwood’s credit that he was able to build and keep it for the entire running time.

Clint Eeastwood is certainly a limited actor and succeeds only in a certain type of role but Frankie Dunne fits him like a glove and he gives probably the most developed and multidimensional performance of his career. He perfectly knows how to use his stern face and slowly shows more and more layers behind this façade and his chemistry with Hilary Swank is the foundation on which the whole movie is build. Hilary Swank herself gives the strongest performance in the picture – her Maggie is a dreamer and a fighter at the same time, desperate for acceptance and love. Oscar-winner Morgan Freeman provides wonderful support and proves once again that nobody does voice-overs like him.

Million Dollar Baby achieves to be both extremely moving and very entertaining. The combination of boxing scenes and human drama works extremely well, even if the focus is always on the characters. Boxing itself plays an important part in the story but at the same time it always seems to be only the basis for the emotional aspects. Boxing brings Maggie and Frankie together, boxing is their life and ultimately their defeat. Eastwood manages to bring the characters very close to the viewers at the end which also makes the final scenes of the movie so moving.

There is need for some criticism: the script and Eastwood’s direction do tend to present a too simple ‘good vs. bad’- structure in the story. Maggie’s family couldn’t be more stereotypical just like Billie ‘The Blue Bear’, the boxer who will bring Maggie down. Especially compared to the almost saint-like Maggie, these characters stand out drastically. I have to admit that all this does work in the context of the story – the fate of Maggie makes it easy to sympathize with her but these characters leave a bad taste in my mouth whenever the movie is over. There is also some criticism regarding the ending of the movie – but I disagree that it sends a wrong kind kind of message. Maggie isn’t supposed to be a symbol but instead makes a decision that feels right for her – and if this is her decision there is no reason to criticise it.

Overall, Million Dollar Baby is a haunting, moving but also entertaining drama that achieves to connect with the audience on a very personal level thanks to the two central characters.


Louis Morgan said...

I just never can get caught up with the story in this film, and I felt some aspects of the film really held it back for me, such as the one dimensional villain you mentioned. I am glad to find out Eastwood's first Oscar winner is higher on your list.

Anonymous said...

Cliche,one-dimensional,actually one of Clint's weakest films.Swank shouldn't have won Oscar over Winslet for this.Freeman saved this film to an extent.

dinasztie said...

I think this movie is a bit cheap and manipulative sometimes but it can be quite great.

joe burns said...

I like it a lot too, and I agree completely..

Anthony said...

I just remember the buzz for "Million Dollar Baby" coming out of nowhere and most people acting like it was a gift from our lord, Jesus Christ sent on Christmas Day....but I never got it and never found it remotely appealing or even memorable aside from Morgan Freeman. I even found the somewhat bloated "The Aviator" more worthy than this film of the Oscar and even "Finding Neverland"...though my personal choice is "Sideways".....though it was a lot better than "Ray".