Million Dollar Baby

So I've been slacking in my movie watching as of late, so today you get a double shot of reviews, albeit in seperate posts. You'll deal.

First up is Million Dollar Baby. Kelsey and I went to see this on Tuesday at AMC Mayfair. It was the first time I'd been to that theater in a while, and I now remember why. I don't know how, but they always make the stupidest people sit right by me. I think I pissed off their manager, and now they bring in ringers to talk incessantly and annoy me in general. But I digress.

Million Dollar Baby is the latest release from the house of Eastwood. Clint wrote, directed, starred in, composed, edited, spliced, diced, produced, reduced and infused this film; his influence is all over it. Morgan Freeman and Hilary Swank also had something to do with it. I went into the movie knowing it had received umpteen Oscar nominations, and would probably remind me of Mystic River, last year's somewhat interesting Eastwood flick. Sure enough, when I left, I understood the noms and I had that Mystic-y River-y taste in my mouth.

To be more succinct, Clint Eastwood thinks he's really important, much more important than I think he is. Every pan of the camera, every forced monologue about aging, and every note of the score is meant to be IMPORTANT, to engage the viewer, and, for me anyway, this emotional overkill distracts from what otherwise might be a great story. And while Million Dollar Baby is a good film, it's not great. I can accept most of the nominations the film received, especially in what seems like a lightweight year for Oscar, but how Clint got a Best Actor nod, over Paul Giamatti in Sideways, is beyond me. To me, Eastwood always plays the same character. He furrows his brow and grits his teeth and says his line. Save one emotional breakdown in front of a priest, I don't not see any significant character evolution throughout the film, even though massive changes take place. Some would call this subtlety, I call it limited range. I guess I don't like Clint Eastwood for the same reason I don't like John Wayne, or (sorry Dad) Humphrey Bogart. All of their films that I've seen, they play the same character, the brooding tough guy. I would love to see Eastwood play a weakling, or Bogie play a coward. I could have just missed these performances, so don't hate me if I'm forgetting something.

Anwyay, Million Dollar Baby. I got off on sort of a tangent there. Eastwood plays a boxing trainer, Freeman his friend and assistant, and Swank the plucky young female boxer with a dream. After Eastwood reluctantly agrees to train "a girl", her dedication moves her up in the ranks, and her rise to success is the story of the film. Sort of. I'm try to be spoiler-free, so you should too. Suffice it to say that the movie takes one the most unexpected turns since The Sixth Sense, and becomes an almost completely different film. I think I like the first part better though, as it is less preachy.

Hilary Swank reminds me again that when she gets a good part, she will transform herself into that character. I totally bought into her Missouri-drawl country girl, and like Boys Don't Cry, made me forget I was watching an actor. Eastwood played himself, and Morgan Freeman, another monotonous part-picker, played the archetypical Freeman character: the wise old owl. I can remember a time, though, when Freeman had great parts, like in Driving Miss Daisy or Glory, but he now seems relegated to the world of supporting wiseman. Bust out the frankincense.

All these elements blended together made a pretty good flick, albeit a flawed one. I'm sure it'll win a couple awards, although I'll probably pick it for none. There were better performances, better directing, a better script. Million Dollar Baby is a decent movie. It gets a B for boxing.


Blogger Maxx said...

Hey Brent, when's the Star Wars convention again? I think we talked about this, but if you don't have anyone else go I can surely take a few days away from school.

10:08 PM  

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