Million Dollar Baby
There comes a point in every person's life when they must finally, finally, serendipitously find themselves in front of a tv wondering why the hell Hilary Swank won an Oscar for "Million Dollar Baby."
For me, that night was tonight.
Don't get me wrong. THE SCRIPT IS PRETTY DARN GOOD.
Not earth-shattering. Not "Fight Club." Not "Stranger than Fiction." But pretty darn good, especially when you think that it's a mega-million dollar film front run by a GIANT studio. But, seriously? This was not a million-dollar role. Swank has MUCH better roles (obvs "Boys Don't Cry' and even freaking "P.S. I Love You!") but hey, Hollywood's got a lotta politics, right?
I mean, come on. We see everyone, i.e. Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman, quietly fall in love with a girl who steals their hearts with her spunkiness. She's got guts, she's got heart. Clint Eastwood especially loves her-- he's currently estranged from his real daughter. The fit is natural. Morgan Freeman is a man on the sidelines, a simple man with uncanny Freeman advice, dispensed appropriately when is necessary. We love them all. Even Clint Eastwood, who, if you haven't grown up with him, can sometimes be hard to digest, is pretty great. Good people. Good hearts. Good aspirations.
And things go swimmingly! Hilary Swank's Maggie is an ace fighter. She routinely KO's in the beginning of her first round, moving up and up and up in ranks. Eastwood comes around, having a character change of heart, taking a risk, and puts her in a title match with the current champion, a dirty ex-prostitute of a fighter who knowingly fights dirty in the ring.
She basically kills Maggie. She fights her dirty. Maggie gets all busted up, comes right back, pummels the crap out of dirty-bitch-german-prostitute, and then DBGP comes right back in a time-out and smacks Hillary Swank's Maggie across her head when she's not looking. And as so often happens serendipitously in movies, something BAD happens.
Maggie falls over, knocks her temple on a stool, and is g-o-n-e.
The rest of the movie is spent watching her decay in a hospital bed, a vegetable, now that her spinal column is detached, breathing through her throat because of a tracheotomy, getting bed sores and ulcers and ultimately amputated, and finally, begging, BEGGING Clint Eastwood to kill her so that she can keep her hard-earned respect and dignity.
He does. And before he does, Eastwood, who has been quietly studying Gaelic this entire film, finally fills Maggie in on a little secret: her nickname in the ring, the one all her fans chant and scream, the name Eastwood gave her while pretending not to know what it meant, means "my darling, my blood."
She dies happily, peacefully, lovingly.
And that's what's very, very good about the movie.
The voice over narrating the whole thing is of course Morgan Freeman, and by the end of the film, we realize he's writing a letter to Clint Eastwood's real daughter, the one that never responds to the years and years and years of letters Eastwood has sent her. "I thought someone should tell you about the man your father really was," Freeman says, and we are happy with that conclusion. It's important, it's meaningful, it's relevant, and it really, really sums up nicely the forty minutes of trauma we just watched everyone endure.
So that's all good. :)
But not Oscar-worthy performance good, for Swank. I mean, seriously, take a look at who she was up against that year: "VERA DRAKE," "ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND," AND "MARIA FULL OF GRACE."
And Swank gets it for gaining 19 lbs of muscle and having gut-wrenching prosthetics and make-up applied every day? she wins with this? come on.
Swank should be better than that. She is MUCH better than the roles I've recently seen her in; this one, and "Conviction." She can, and SHOULD, do much, much more with her ability.
The story is pretty cute. Day players make a few good appearances, Danger, a mentally handicapped kid gives us all a huge dose of heart right in the midst of any situation, giving the Hit Pit a charming, quirky attitude. A couple of the fighters play pretty good assholes, and the big German Ex-Prostitute Bitch is TERRIFYING. OH, and Swank's family; as she says quite accurately, "lazy-ass hillbillies." They're good. They're awful, and they make me really, really, really hate them and their selfish habits.
So. Million Dollar Baby.
A mis-directed Oscar, but hey, I guess it was alright.