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Movie of The Day: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

"Frankie likes to say that boxing is an unnatural act, that everything in boxing is backwards: sometimes the best way to deliver a punch is to step back... But step back too far and you ain't fighting at all."
The film stars Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank, and Morgan Freeman. It is the story of an under-appreciated boxing trainer, his elusive past and his quest for atonement in helping an underdog amateur female boxer achieve her fragile dream of becoming a professional. The film won four Academy Awards: Best Motion Picture of the Year, Best Achievement in Directing (Clint Eastwood), Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Hillary Swank) and Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role (Morgan Freeman). The screenplay was written by Paul Haggis, based on short stories by F.X. Toole, the pen name of fight manager and "cutman" Jerry Boyd. Originally published under the title Rope Burns, the stories have since been republished under the movie's title.
Eastwood uses his multiple talents to make films that have something valuable to say. In the emotionally powerful, Million Dollar Baby, he tells an allegorical tale of boxing to subtly express themes of hope, redemption, sacrifice, persistence, and belief in one's self.
Eastwood brings the same grizzled toughness to Frankie that he does to all his roles, but stretches his acting muscles thanks to his relationship with Maggie, which eventually brings out something affectionate and vulnerable in him we haven’t seen in a long time, if ever. There’s nothing here to challenge Morgan Freeman in any way, and he settles easily into a well-worn role that he wears as comfortably and casually as the threadbare socks Frankie nags him about in one of their many scenes that suggest an old married couple rather than a pair of aging pugilists.
The movie emphasizes that failure is a more honorable and personally fulfilling trait than never having tried, while also frowning upon laziness and leeching off others.I personally consider great films as the ones where I leave the theater with a better understanding of human nature, or a desire to improve the world by even a little bit. Eastwood's latest more than succeeds on those counts. 10/10


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