Friday, February 4, 2011
(June 2005, U.S.)
The more I watch boxing films the more I become convinced that as a genre, they feature the most consistent cliche elements; the down-and-out everyday man, the golden opportunity that comes along, the big fight and the climactic victory that will have moviegoers on their feet cheering, and all ususally based on someone's true story. After a while, I yearn for something different that will make a boxing film stand out from the rest.
Ron Howard's CINDERELLA MAN fits the bill on all of the above-mentioned elements. What brings this story to life is the hard times of the Great Depression that hard-nosed, Irish-American boxer James J. Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) and his family must endure together. It's heartbreaking to watch a good man slowly spiral downward during hard economic times and struggle desperately to keep his family afloat, or even warm and fed (you know, during the entire time I was out of work a couple of years ago, I couldn't even bring myself to watch this film). The heartbreak is even worse when Jim is forced to give up boxing after breaking his hand in the ring. This is a relief and an upset to his wife, Mae (played by Renee Zellweger), who can't bring herself to watch the violence of his chosen profession, and yet she knows that without his boxing profession, they'll have no steady income. Manual labor could only take a man so far during the Great Depression. But opportunity eventually (almost inevitably) knocks and the boxer rises again to not only overcome the odds against him, but to also defend himself against the heavyweight champion of the world, Max Baer, a man who has previously killed two men in the boxing ring. On June 13, 1935, in one of the biggest achievements in boxing history, Jim Braddock defeated the seemingly invincible Max Baer to become the heavyweight champion of the world, until eventually losing the title to Joe Louis.
As mentioned above, CINDERELLA MAN, like most other boxing film, is filled with the standard cliches of the genre. It's still a fucking great movie, though!
Favorite line or dialogue:
Jim Braddock: "I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them."