Sunny Days in Heaven
Spiritual/Political/Philosophical Blog on the Nature of Truth and Falsehood and Heaven

Thursday, May 26, 2005  

Cinderella Man Boffo Boxing Film

As a blogger listed with Grace Hill Media now, I am invited to free screenings of new movies (although usually there is a large audience also there for a sneak preview, test screening).

Tonight, with my 20 year old daughter, I saw Ron Howard's Cinderella Man which is bound to remind a great many people why they used to love movies. Like the story it's based on, this film has heart. It hearkens back to the great Frank Capra movies of the 30's and 40's only not as corny.

It's is a depression era boxing story in the Rocky mode with the visceral cinema-photography of Raging Bull (but in color). It's a better movie than Scorsese’s, though, because it features a character you like and care about.

Russell Crowe plays James J. Braddock, a light-heavyweight fighter and family man down on his luck who makes a remarkable comeback in the heavyweight division. Asked by reporters what he’s fighting for this time around, he answers, “Milk.”

Given the movie’s title and what I’ve said thus far, there isn’t anything more to add to the story without giving too much away.

So let’s talk about the quality of the movie and the actors.

This is going to be a favorite for many for years to come. It's a pleasure to finally watch a movie about people you enjoy watching. Russell Crowe is brilliant, maybe the best actor of his generation. You never catch him acting in this. You forget it’s Crowe since you come to love James Braddock, and not his impersonator.

The same can’t be said for Rene Zellweger. Granted, hers is not as meaty a role as the more obvious, but less dramatic loving wife. Unfortunately, she pretty much recycles her character from Jerry Maguire. It isn’t terrible, but you realize that she hasn’t the depth in her heart - she simply doesn’t know the suffering and fear nor the style of femininity from that period. She is cloying in the intimate scenes between husband and wife.

Nevertheless, it is not a great detraction in this movie which is classically heartwarming and uplifting, but gets there honestly without crude manipulation. It may be the best boxing movie ever made.

Although PG-13, I’m tempted to call it a family movie since the few vulgarities of language seem appropriate and forgivable given the circumstances in which they occur.

For myself, I can’t say it’s a great movie, but it was a pleasure to sit through one that didn’t make me cringe, and to watch Crowe as Braddock is pure joy. The music tended to the lugubrious, but again, in this context people will not mind a little treacle.

I am nearly impossible to please. This movie will please many and is a contender for Oscars next year.

One other pleasing fact is the depiction of religion (Catholic) in this movie. It simply portrays the Church, its priest and people in a neutral light. That is, religion is shown as a natural part of people’s lives - which is actually a positive message that normal people are religious and church going, who find comfort and goodness there.

If you like movies, you will love this movie. Enjoy.

posted by Mark Butterworth | 11:07 PM |