I watched Million Dollar Baby a few weeks back and I forgot how much I really enjoyed that movie. It was highly acclaimed at the time of its release in 2004, winning four Academy Awards: Best Picture, Best Director (Clint Eastwood), Best Actress (Hillary Swank), and Best Supporting Actor (Morgan Freeman) and was nominated for three others.
This is a boxing themed movie that draws you in. I don’t know what it is about the boxing genre but it really does provide a fantastic story board for a film. Most people can’t make it through a 12 round (36 minute) fight but they can sit through a three hour movie without even blinking. Eastwood does a fantastic job of building the story up all the way to the climax of the film.
In simplest terms, Eastwood is a journeyman boxing trainer who hasn’t been able to get his big break. Swank comes to his gym wanting to learn how to box. Eastwood is adamant at first that he doesn’t train girls, but over time he’s reluctantly persuaded to take her on as a client. The story builds up to Swank learning to box and eventually turning professional.
As great as the movie was, I really wished it had a different ending.
If you haven’t seen the movie and wish to check it out, please stop reading!!
Swank finally gets her shot at the title and that’s when tragedy hits. She starts the title match slowly but as the match progresses she begins to assert herself. At the end of the round she’s walking back to her corner when she gets sucker punched from behind. The punch knocks her out and as she falls forward she ends up breaking her neck on the stool in her corner, leaving her as a quadriplegic.
When she first learns her prognosis she’s very upbeat and thinks she’ll it. After time she realizes that her fate is sealed and she is not content to live the balance of her life paralyzed. She asks a favor of Eastwood to help her die, a decision which torments him before he eventually decides to help her.
I thought the movie was fantastic up until the tragedy in the ring. I remember being completely upset as I watched it unfold. I thought was going to be a feel good movie like Rocky, a story where the underdog almost pulls off the big upset. Instead I watched in horror as the tragedy unfolded. It really smacked me upside the head and I felt a little betrayed as I watched.
I guess the ending is the big part of what made the movie the critical success it became. The story telling evoked all sorts of emotion within me and in the end that’s what made it so memorable. I just wish it could have ended in a different way.