Rakesh's movie talk
Million Dollar Baby (2005)

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Directed by Clint Eastwood
Written by Paul Haggis (based on short story by F.X Toole)
Starring Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank and Morgan Freeman


When Eastwood first started out to direct Play Misty For Me, one critic remarked something like, “we are still not ready for him as an actor…” The movie made mild business and some critics cranked their eyebrows together and took notice. Of course there is this one Paulene Kael, who never accepted Eastwood’s work. Too bad, she is gone now, or she would have change her mind about Eastwood after watching this film.


I am writing this after witnessing Eastwood winning the Oscar for this film. Still, I was not expecting brilliant masterpiece. I know, deep inside, being a fan for too long now, that this is going to be one of his quiet little movies that have good impact. And I was wrong.


Simple is good. But I never thought that simple would be brilliant, as testified in this movie. This film was made around US$30 million, which is paltry by today’s standard, and was shot within 37 days. Typical Eastwood work. And every moment of this film spoke quietly of the master performances from those in front and behind the camera. You could see that these folks worked quietly, confidently, and adequately, meaning not spilling the brim.


Eastwood directs, produces and stars as Frankie Dunn, a boxing coach in his twilight years. Morgan Freeman, the narrator of this story, plays his friend, and gym help Scrap. Hillary Swank plays Maggie, a poor waitress aspiring to be a boxer. The plot starts innocently enough, as Eastwood, the reluctant coach who doesn’t train ‘girlie’ slowly accepts her and whips her up into shape, and seeing that she has a very dangerous potential. It could have been a girl ‘Rocky’, except that it is not.


Things take turn after almost three quarter of a movie, and it’s a different picture altogether. By now most of you must have heard the story, but I would still not reveal it. In fact, if you go to Google News, you will see certain debate about the ending. The moral judgement. But I suggest that you see the movie first before asking yourself, if the characters action is correct or not.


It’s a damned bloody serious movie, perhaps the darkest Eastwood had ever directed or starred in. Darker than Unforgiven. Sure, the movie is tense, but it is not devoid of humour. Unlike previous years Mystic Rivers, this film (until the third act) never tries too hard to take itself seriously. I am not saying Mystic Rivers does all the time, but sometimes you get a feeling that film screams hard to take itself seriously. And please remember, it’s not a complaint.


So, what can I say about the performances? Freeman and Swank won deserved Oscars. But Eastwood surprised me the most. This is perhaps the most rawest, most personal performance he has given since, well, Blood Work (I know, I know, there are complaints about that movie, but check out my review on that). Too bad, Jamie Foxx was better or the whole world would have bowled over watching Clint clutching Oscar for acting.


Other departments functioned professionally like the cast. I took note of the cinematography and was awed by its simplicity. Most shots are just mastershots, no cutting into mids and close-ups unnecessarily. In that way, it captured the performance as fresh as it should be. There are a lots of first-time incidents for the characters and the cinematography did not betray the spontaneity.


And also, this might be the closest Clint ever got into dealing with religion. As a director he dealt the religious scenes with liberal mind, but being that it is a sensitive area, opinions over the ideas presented may be split. Like Clint said elsewhere, ‘Opinions are like assholes, everybody got one.”


I could go on and rave about this movie, but you got to see it. After that call me and we can talk about it over coffee. It worth talking the whole year round.


Note: If you go to mrqe.com you’d see most of the reviewers heaping praise on this movie. Fine, but it may get boring. Here’s a couple of stuff for your reading pleasure. But beware – read this only if you know about the climax. I warned ya!