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Million Dollar Baby

Beneath its discreet aesthetics and emotional tug lurks a rather cliched tale, the economy of expression not wishing away the underlying melodrama.

Million Dollar Baby
Million Dollar Baby
Starring: Clint Eastwood, Hillary Swank, Morgan Freeman
Director: Clint Eastwood
Rating: ***

The best thing about Million Dollar Baby is the way it has been shot. The shadowy frames echo the grimy high-tension feel of a boxing ring. The straightforward, no-nonsense story-telling is pleasantly old-worldly. In fact, there is a uniformly measured stone to the film which makes it poignant.

But flip the coin and Million Dollar Baby can also prove to be disappointing. Beneath its discreet aesthetics and emotional tug lurks a rather cliched tale, the economy of expression not wishing away the underlying melodrama. Frankie (Eastwood) is a gruff old trainer who is devoted to his boxers but doesn't quite lead them on to the all-important titles. He runs a gym, Hit Pit, with the help of a one-time champ, Scrap (Freeman). Maggie (Swank) is a down-and-out but spunky waitress who wants to make it to the ring because boxing is the only thing she feels good doing: "It's about the magic of risking everything for a dream that no one sees except you." But Frankie thinks "girlie tough ain't enuf".

We know from the start which way the film will go, that the Frankie-Maggie fondness will turn out to be one of those surrogate father-daughter relationships. OK, we aren't at all prepared for the jab towards the end but even that eventually becomes a throwback to Brian Clark's Whose Life is it Anyway. There are some obvious broad brushstrokes—the uncaring family of Maggie is singularly villainous and her relationship with Frankie is simplistically sweet. In fact, it's the banter and jokes of the Frankie-Scrap friendship that seem more layered. Then there's the sentimental scene where Maggie saves a half-eaten steak for her dog, when we all know who it is meant for. Or when she dashes away from a potential manager saying she'd never leave Frankie. Didn't we see this loyalty coming?

The film does obliquely posit a new model of womanhood, one about risking the all-important beauty for a larger mission. But more than Maggie, the show actually belongs to the guilt-ridden Frankie and his never-ending search for redemption. The acting by all the three lead players is competent and full of goodness and grace. You feel for Swank's Maggie but also can't help wondering whether Imelda Staunton in Vera Drake or Catalina Moreno in Maria Full of Grace weren't better.

1. Bewafaa
2. Black
3. Socha Na Tha
4. Page 3
5. Chand sa Roshan Chehra

US Top 5
1. The Pacifier
2. Be Cool
3. Hitch
4. Diary of a Mad Black Woman
5 Million Dollar Baby

Courtesy: Film Information

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