Clint, Hilary and Co have finally walked off with four Oscars, our hearts and a place in history.
At the last minute ‘Million Dollar Baby’ met the seven day in a Los Angeles cinema hall rule, and then being eligible for the Awards walked away with four Oscars, our hearts and a place in history. I cannot sum it up better than Jeff Shamon who said, “Clint Eastwood’s 25th film as a director, ‘Million Dollar Baby’ stands proudly with ‘Unforgiven’ and ‘Mystic River’ as the masterwork of a great American filmmaker. In an age of bloated spectacle and computer-generated effects extravaganzas, Eastwood turns an elegant screenplay by Paul Haggis (adapted from the book ‘Rope Burns: Stories From the Corner’ by FX Toole, a pseudonym for veteran boxing manager Jerry Boyd) into a simple, humanitarian example of classical filmmaking, as deeply felt in its heart-wrenching emotions as it is streamlined in its character-driven storytelling.’’
In ‘Million Dollar Baby’ boxing becomes a metaphor for life as advice like ‘’Protect yourself’’ and ‘’Boxing is life backwards’’ fill our minds. Yes, you do at a visual level get a film about fighting but there is so very much more going on. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is about an exquisitely understated relationship between Clint Eastwood’s Frankie Dunn and his best friend who is black, Eddie ‘’Scrap-Iron’’ Dupris played into a Best Supporting Oscar by Morgan Freeman; it is about the relationship between an old boxing trainer and a young female boxer acted by Hilary Swank who won her second Oscar with this role; and above all ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is about different kinds of love, various kinds of loss, and about how even God, sometimes chooses to be helpless no matter how good a supplicant one is.
Only critic Tom Brook’s predicted the Hilary Swank win by saying, ‘’Many believe Eastwood has a Midas touch. And if the critics’ praise of ‘Million Dollar Baby’ is any indication, he may be the one to help Hilary Swank win her second Oscar… or at least get a nomination. In ‘Million Dollar Baby’, Swank portrays Maggie Fitzgerald, an uneducated waitress who decides to make something of her life by becoming a boxer. Eastwood plays the grumpy old trainer who finally decides to take her on.’’ Swank won her first Oscar for ‘Boy’s Don’t Cry’ in which she plays a cross dresser who is somewhat like the boxer in ‘Million Dollar Baby’ but according to Hilary, Clint Eastwood chose her because ‘’Clint says he hires the people because he believes in them and he means it.’’ Eastwood probably saw the Boy’s Don’t Cry movie which is also a love story that is not traditional.
Said Eastwood, ‘’It becomes a love story but not a romantic love story, but a father daughter love story and it’s the daughter he missed in his life and he’s the father to her that she lost at a very early age.’’ This is beginning to sound like a formula movie which it most certainly is not as Hilary Swank says, ‘’The movie at a point turns and goes somewhere that you didn’t think it was going to go and that’s beautiful to me and I think a lot of movies don’t do that anywhere.’’ What is hypnotising from beginning to end is the voice of Morgan Freeman that is full of ‘’after midnight’’ storytelling timbre that carries the weight of memory, a touch of sadness and a sense that life is not tragic or happy but somewhere in between.
Said Glenn Kenny, “It’s is a remarkably appealing success story full of heart and humour and poignancy, with Swank as winning as she’s ever been. And then the story goes in a different direction. A ring mishap transforms Maggie, and all of the film’s characters are faced with choices that you or I might never imagine dealing with — and would never wish on anyone else.’’ Clint Eastwood whom Hilary Swank calls Boss throughout the film gives her a boxer robe with a Gaellic inscription on it and he tells her that one day he would reveal its meaning. He does it when he is faced with the most difficult choice he has ever had to make. It was Glenn Kenny who believed that Eastwood might get the Best Director Oscar and ‘Million Dollar Baby’ deserved the Best Film Oscar when he said in a brief synopsis he said, ‘’The movie, directed by and co-starring Clint Eastwood, begins as a standard, albeit beautifully cadenced, up-from-underdog story of a feisty female boxer and her emotionally distant trainer. Midway through, the ‘’sweet science’’ takes an awful toll, and the movie becomes a far darker tale. Devastating.’’