Million Dollar Baby English Movie Review

Feature Film
Feb 24, 2005 By Subhash K. Jha

Fine, Clint Eastwood has chalked up another wildly winning drama and you can't help falling in love with it. But then again, you can't but miss the deliberate, just-to-win-your-approval signposts in the narrative.


"Million Dollar Baby" has got sincerity written in every frame. But sorry to say, it lacks the easygoing, fluent, febrile dramatic tensions in Eastwood's last "Mystic River".


If the earlier film was tragic while mystic, the present one is too conscious of the director's awesome reputation of repeatedly delivering award-winning ventures.


Nothing, except the last 20 minutes - not Eastwood's gravelly machismo, not Swank's gritty and glorious effort - takes us by surprise.


The vaguely satisfying film chronicles Swank's gritty, but glorious effort to rise above layer after layer of prejudice to get into the ring and wallop those punchy looks and fists that ring loud and clear in the critical spheres.


At first, when Maggie saunters into Frankie's training centre, we know the two are going to spar over words of throwaway wisdom.


Sample: "Someone's gotta tell you, you're too old to be a boxer...you aren't gonna cry now, are you?"


Swank is, of course, too brutally pragmatic to cry. If you've seen her cross-dressing triumph in "Men Don't Cry", you'll know Swank is as sincere as an actor gets.


This film follows suit. Yes, Eastwood does manage to touch the correct chords in almost every sequence.


The verbal and emotional sparring between the two protagonists is low-pitched, almost lyrical.


But very rarely does the material (again self-consciously, brilliantly written by Paul Haggis) cross the zone of artistic exhibitionism to touch the innards of integrity.


Though the film is actually a showcase for Swank's sparing virtuosity, Eastwood's wizened wit and irony often furnish the dark proceedings with a feisty underbelly.


Scenes with Maggie's callous mother and family could've avoided being so brutally convenient to the protagonist's purpose of shared isolation.


The closing interlude when Maggie, wounded beyond repair, is liberated from the burden of life by her guru is gloriously cinematic in treatment.


You cherish the moments between Eastwood and Swank, and in fact look forward to more of their compatibility than we actually see.


In fact, one of the plot's blind spots is the meagre space allotted to developing the central relationship.


Swank and Eastwood lend a behind-the-scenes layering to their parts.


And then there's Morgan Freeman, playing Eastwood's partner and opponent in the boxing arena.


As usual, he just blends into the dark fabric of this finely, though, self-consciously spins a yarn of spunk and mortality.


The film has just three main characters. This gives the narrative a cut-and-dried, straight-from-the-hip feeling.

Subhash K. Jha

   

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