Monday, July 12, 2010

Day Ten: Million Dollar Baby

Ranking on IMDb Top 250: #145
Year: 2004
Director: Clint Eastwood
Starring: Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank

Alright, this is going to be a fairly short post as I am quite tired. I'll lead off with the kicker: This is probably my least favorite Clint Eastwood movie that I've seen, considering both acting and directing. However, it's the one that makes me respect him the most, because you can feel him stretching his limits and operating outside of his comfort zone. For a guy who cut his teeth in spaghetti westerns, had his most famous role as a rogue cop, won his first directing Oscar with a western, and inspires cries of "Whoa, badass!" in every performance, a movie where he plays a boxing trainer – albeit a somewhat grizzled and hardened one – who (gasp!) cries and is faced with the decision of whether to pull the plug on the person he loves most in the world is miles outside of the box. That alone deserves commendation.

While I was very impressed by Million Dollar Baby, I simply enjoyed watching it less than other Clint flicks. It caught me somewhat off guard. Maybe I shouldn't be so anxious to compare movies to other works by their stars and directors, though. If we let Million Dollar Baby stand on its own as a singular entity and lose all the baggage of the man behind it, it holds up a lot better. It's a little Oscar-baiting, sure, but it's still very good. Hilary Swank is great as a boxer who came from nothing only to return to it after a title bout paralyzes her, and she probably deserved all the hardware she took home for the role. Morgan Freeman is his typically lovable self as an ex-boxer and partner of Clint Eastwood, whose Frankie Dunn is the most emotionally complex character he has ever played.

It's best to consider Million Dollar Baby a drama that happens to have Clint Eastwood in it rather than a Clint Eastwood movie, because someone wanting to see a "Clint Eastwood movie" may not be pleased with the results. For someone who wants their heart-strings tugged on a little bit and doesn't mind feeling crummy after watching something, this is a much better bet.

The Good: Hilary Swank's performance. Not overrated in the least.

The Bad: The cinematography is ridiculously dark a lot of the time. I know it's a dark movie, Clint, but I don't need a million shadows in every shot to remind me of the fact.

The Skinny: This is one that I'm kind of battling with on whether it should be included in the Top 250 or not. It's a good movie, but it definitely only exists to bring home Oscars. It's executed far better than Crash or Slumdog Millionaire or something like that, but it still feels kind of borderline. I think I'd include it on the list but put it closer to #250 than #150.

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