Caught Clint Eastwood’s new film Million Dollar Baby last night. What a pleasant change it is to see a film so well acted, edited, and written. It really must be Oscar season. It’s main underdog theme is strongly underpinned and counter pointed by Clint Eastwood and Hilary Swank’s stubborn boxer and trainer relationship to the point where even though there are other subplots involving Morgan Freeman’s gym janitor and Swank’s trailer trash family, it may as well be just a two-header.
The tale has often been told of how stubborn wills can relax into genuine affection and this tale is no different but it’s better told; these characters are ones you can relate to. However, it is done with such skill that the slow pace of the film endears us to them more than blockbuster trash ever would. Freeman’s character moves the story on with voiceover, which though strictly not necessary, never demeans the action on screen. Of course, action in this case is a relative term. Eastwood the director, like Robert Redford, is not afraid to maintain a slow pace in his films, and plots and characters develop as fast as they need to. Maybe a more of the characters are laid out explicitly than is strictly necessary, but the last third of the film would not be gripping without it.
Counter pointing the languor of the drama, the boxing sequences here are almost comically fast save the final fight, they are well handled and truly engaging. You feel the punches as they land - hard - and as a whole, MDB does exactly the same; bowls you over. This is up for Oscars come Feb 28. Expect it to win some.
[Update: Sure enough it did win some. Best Picture in fact.]