Saturday, December 08, 2007

Million Dollar Baby

I hate boxing.

I hate tearjerkers.

I can take or leave Clint Eastwood.

I loved Million Dollar Baby, which is all those things, but a lot more. It's about character, grit, redemption, and a different kind of fight than happens in the ring.

Hilary Swank plays Maggie Fitzgerald, who came to L.A. from nothing, and trains to be a fighter in her every spare moment. She wants Frankie Dunn (Eastwood) to train her. He "doesn't train girls." But Maggie is no ordinary person. Working out late into the night on her birthday, she lets fly when Frankie asks her "what are you doing here?"

"I'm 32, Mr. Dunn," she says, "and I'm here celebrating the fact that I spent another year scraping dishes and waitressing which is what I've been doing since 13, and according to you, I'll be 37 before I can even throw a decent punch, which I have to admit, after working on this speed bag for a month, may be the God's simple truth. Other truth is, my brother's in prison, my sister cheats on welfare by pretending one of her babies is still alive, my daddy's dead, and my momma weighs 312lbs. If I was thinking straight, I'd go back home, find a used trailer, buy a deep fryer and some Oreos. Problem is, this the only thing I ever felt good doing. If I'm too old for this, then I got nothing. That enough truth to suit you?"

He relents.

There wasn't a bad performance in the whole production. Swank earned that Best Actress Oscar and then some. Eastwood was great. Morgan Freeman (Best Supporting Actor) was excellent as Scrap Dupris, a retired fighter who manages Frankie Dunn's gym.

So this is probably yet another movie that I'm the next-to-last person in the movie-watching world to have seen, especially as it won the Best Picture Oscar. But just in case you're the other one: do see it.

I will say that after Crash, Lonely Hearts, Brokeback Mountain, and Million Dollar Baby over the last few weeks, I'm seriously overdue for a movie that makes me laugh, or has explosions and car chases and/or some good old fashioned gratuitous nudity. Enough with the serious dramas for a while.


And by the way, what's so great about boxing? Yes, there's tremendous athleticism. Yes, there's strategy and grace. But it still boils down to two people stepping into a ring and beating the crap out of each other until one of them is too hurt to stand up. The idea of paying to see it is repellant.

Yet unlike most people, I have --in real life, not for sport -- hauled off and punched another adult in the face, hard enough to bruise my knuckles and knock him flat out. And I have to say it felt fucking great, and that I would do it again, under the same or similar circumstances. So I know that instinct, and the primal satisfaction from acting on it. If I felt that anger all the time? Shoot. Boxing might be just the hobby for me.

Maybe humans need boxing.


  1. Wow, I'm shocked that you've actually punched someone. Physical violence freaks me out (yeah, I'm a whimp). I've never seen fighting IRL, but boxing on TV offends and disgusts me. It looks so primitive. Which my husband thinks is exactly why it's cool 'two guys in a rink with nothing but their hands'...yada, yada, yada.

    Anyhoo, I didn't see Million Dollar Baby, because in addition to being a whimp, I'm also a softie who's heard about the ending. But I should really give it a try. Your review was excellent.