#156 / 365 – ‘Million Dollar Baby’ (2004) – 132 mins
IMDb Challenge #93 / 250 – Ranked #148 – Via DVD Collection
In the wake of a painful estrangement from his daughter, boxing trainer Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) has been unwilling to let himself get close to anyone for a very long time – then Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) walks into his gym. In a life of constant struggle, Maggie’s gotten herself this far on raw talent, unshakable focus and a tremendous force of will. But more than anything, she wants someone to believe in her. The last thing Frankie needs is that kind of responsibility – let alone that kind of risk – but won over by Maggie’s sheer determination, he begrudgingly agrees to take her on. In turns exasperating and inspiring each other, the two come to discover that they share a common spirit that transcends the pain and loss of their pasts, and they find in each other a sense of family they lost long ago. Yet, they both face a battle that will demand more heart and courage than any they’ve ever known.
Yes, Million Dollar Baby does follow for 75 percent of its runtime, the same clichéd, come from behind, underdog, shot at the title, sporting movie formula that has been employed by Hollywood for many a year. However what is so great about this directed and produced Clint Eastwood picture, which I’d nearly forgotten how beautiful a movie it was, is that he skirts around these clichés to ultimately not serve up a movie about boxing, but a gripping drama that explores the relationship between Frankie and Maggie, who unpredictably become vital to each other.
Million Dollar Baby more than deserved 3 out 4 of its Oscar wins in 2005, Best Picture, Best Director and Best Actress as Hilary Swank is magnificent in her role and one that demands everything. The Best Supporting Actor award of Morgan Freeman still niggles me, because he’s in all too familiar territory as the wise old man and his ‘Shawshank’ voice-over narration slighty mars this otherwise emotional tour de force from Eastwood – that will have you wiping away the tears come its unpredictable final shot.