Why Cliches Keep Hollywood Going
Although I like Clint Eastwood as much as the next person, I thought Million Dollar Baby was dreadful (far inferior to an another boxing movie Girl Fight, for instance) and so I quite agree with Tim Goodman’s assessment of the script by Paul Haggis.
Prior to the gimmick that swung the movie, audiences already had to endure some hoary old dramatic devices. First, Clint Eastwood (best director winner; best actor nominee) as the curmudgeonly old trainer who never took a boxer to the title. He’s a good man who worries about his fighters like family, but he’s cheated of his best and rightful shot. Then Morgan Freeman (best supporting actor winner) as the wise ex-fighter who got his title chance prematurely (making him the yin to Eastwood’s yang) but has paid for it the rest of his life. Yet his love for the sweet science keeps him living in the gym on a rickety bed, cleaning up spit.
Their lives change when they meet Swank (best actress winner), the heart- of-gold waitress just trying to live the dream. Of course she’s from the South. Of course her family is awful trailer trash. Of course she calls the Eastwood character “boss.” He’s the father she never had. She’s the daughter who loves him — instead of the one sending his letters back.
Perhaps it’s a testament to the acting of this trio that audiences get as far as they do without a cynical shake of the head. The aforementioned cliches are almost acceptable until the manipulative shenanigans in the ring.
And–might I add–those manipulative shenanigans were a chick version of the one used in Rocky, in which another (white) boxer fights a (black) boxer who plays dirty.