A review by Gary Chew
Clint Eastwood has something in common with one of my favorite composers: Maurice Ravel.
Ravels goal in composition was technical perfection even though he knew for certain hed never attain it. But that didnt keep the early 20th Century French icon of music from trying to get as close as he could.
With Million Dollar Baby, director/actor Clint Eastwood has gotten yet closer to perfection, and it comes on the heels of his astounding Mystic River of 2003 (reviewed by Chew on this site).
I suggest when youre reading any other comments about Million Dollar Baby, that you avoid the paragraphs describing any close detail of the story. You really need to see this baby with as little prior information as possible. Thats the way I saw it and am I ever glad I did.
This is a film without complexity. Its simple and straightforward. The good characters and the bad characters in the story are easily discernible. Although true to life and contemporary, I believe Eastwoods 25th movie is a story unto itself, some way not connected to this frenetic world we find ourselves in here in the 21st Century.
The film has some predictability to it. Clint as Frankie the trainer/manager keeps saying, I dont train girlies! to Maggie, a 31 year-old, poverty-stricken woman whos goal is to be a successful boxer. We know Frankie will train Maggie, ultimately, but theres so much more to follow thats not--- to use a pugilistic term---telegraphed. And the films punch catches you, flat-footed---right on the chin.
Then add masterful Morgan Freeman, as Scrap, an over-the-hill boxer who didnt make the cut in his prime. Scrap sweeps up, empties the trash and gives encouragement to the good, the bad and the ugly who train in Frankies L.A. gym. Scrap also gets scrappy with Frankie now and then.
Frankie is, of course, the paragon of the what wed call a cranky, old codger.
Its just about as solid a cast as one could ever expect after seeing Eastwoods Unforgiven and Mystic River.
Some are saying Million Dollar Baby is his best. Im not quite so quick to make that assessment. How bout all three are really superb motion pictures that are must-sees for anyone who takes film-going seriously?
What I can say about Million Dollar Baby is that its the best movie Ive seen this year, with Sideways merely a nose behind. The Aviator (reviewed by Chew on this site) is back a bit in the pack. But it looks like the Hollywood pols are ready to give Mr. Scorcese the walk up to get the Golden Guy this year. He shouldve gotten it a long time ago for Raging Bull, another movie about boxing. Oh well, its not A Perfect World, a rather less than perfect film also by Mr. Eastwood from 1993.
When you get right down to it, Million Dollar Baby is about having the heart and the guts to go and keeping going for what one wants out of life. And, even more important: being there for someone who is loved and respected. I dont think theres anything else better a film can offer.
Thank you, Mr. Eastwood.
Gary Chew can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Copyright © 2005, Gary Chew. All rights reserved.