Million Dollar Baby Review
"Million Dollar Baby", Lakeshore Entertainment, 2004
Whilst a decent underdog story with a capable cast, the plot often loses focus of its Rocky-inspired identity with unsatisfying results.
The mediocrity of this film can be seen with the relationship between Eastwood's Frankie and Swank's Maggie - the backbone of both the themes of perseverance and family as well as the core diegesis . Whilst during the second act, the partnership blossoming is something that the audience happily welcomes, the way that the treatment initially handles their relationship comes across as disjointed and forced, breaking the charming quality of the having-to-prove-oneself trope that it falls upon. Whilst the bearly-groomed subplot of Frankie's daughter may be the result of this, there is nothing clearly tangible for the audience to latch on to as for why the pacing starts off this slow between the two, hindering the flat aesthetic that the colourless white lighting echoes. Whilst I can appreciate that this stylistic choice may reflect the safety of remaining in the lower divisions in an attempt for Frankie to hold onto his relationships, characterised by Eastwood's wearily-stiff performance, this attempt to tackle the trauma of identity ultimately appears conceived. This can also be seen with the stylistic variation with film-noir inspired high-contrast chiaroscuro lighting that characters are composed in, however, I feel this is wasted potential with the mundane nature of the script contrasting against the highly-dramatised change in backdrop.
One thing I do enjoy is the treatment towards the sequences following the boxing - the absence of any soundtrack and steadily-handheld camera movement provides an intriguing gloomily-vibrant feel from the character-centered 1st and 3rd act, which placed beside the 2nd act ultimately underlines how much more stale they come across. Swank's Maggie is also interesting to watch as she manages to handle the daughter-side of the relationship between her and Frankie naturally - under Eastwood's direction, the natural nuances of her body language really shine through.
Nevertheless, I did not find much more interesting about this film. Whilst I can see the attempt to exercise the characterisation of Freeman's Eddie being the epitome of faith, the conflict between Danger and Shawrelle and the tangents in the story between Frankie and the vicar beyond the confines of the sports/drama genre, the execution is meandering and unengaging as a whole.