← Back to Reviews

Million Dollar Baby

by Yoda
posted on 2/26/05
Saw this on Tuesday (gracias to you-know-who-you-are), but been under the weather since, and wanted to let it digest a bit before talking about it. This won't resemble an actual review, so brace yourself:

First, the film is remarkably well-directed. I've never thought much of Eastwood as an actor, and cannot conceive as to how he managed to get nominated for his role here, but his inclusion in the Best Director category of tomorrow's Oscars is entirely deserved. The lighting in the gym, in particular, was what stood out for me. Just gorgeous to look at.

Swank, however, is the highlight of the film. Freeman isn't asked to do a whole lot, in my opinion, but he does it well nonetheless. Swank's role seems far more challenging, but you'd never know it by watching her. She makes the film, plain and simple.

Now, in regards to the ending:

WARNING: "Million Dollar Baby" spoilers below
I don't have much of a problem with it, in a moral/political sense. Regardless of one's feelings on the right-to-die issue, I didn't think killing Maggie was portrayed as the "right" thing to do; just something she wants done. We can only guess about what stance, if anything, the film takes here; and I'm all too happy to do just that.

It strays close to an endorsement when she makes her plea to Frankie, but counters itself with the words of Father Horvak, whose advice was (I thought) something the audience was intended to take as sound. Movies have subtle ways, of course, of letting us know who we're supposed to side with. When our protagonist has finally turned a mental corner and is ready to succeed in whatever it is he's doing, music lets us know. And when a film wants us to know that a particular character's stance is the one we're supposed to agree with, it'll often make sure we see them getting some other things right, first, so that when things become a bit more nuanced, we know who to "trust." Father Horvak tells Frankie exactly why he's been coming to Mass for 23 years, and we know he's right. As such, I think his advice is intended to be "correct," in the eyes of the story.

Slay's interpretation -- which, admittedly, had not occurred to me -- was that Frankie knows his choice is wrong, but feels he is already damned. That fits about as well as anything else I can come up with.

I presume, from the "what kind of man your father was" (or was it is?) line that Eddie, Freeman's character, is relating the story to Frankie's daughter. If so, it's a nice touch. I'm still not sure how I feel about the fact that we don't see Frankie after he's ended Maggie's life. That might be by design, as seeing him at all would probably make either an explicit endorsement or a condemnation of what he'd done inevitable. If we see him at peace, the film's stance is clear. Ditto if we see him depressed or upset in any way.

Skip Bayless of ESPN.com has a spoiler-filled piece here which takes note of a few logical inconsistencies throughout the film, some of which had puzzled me, as well. My only gripes that don't stretch into the world of politics or logistics is that it drags a bit at the end, and that Maggie's family is, as Bayless also points out, is almost a parody of itself. Everything before the "event," however, is nearly flawless.

Aside from deciphering what -- if any -- stance the film takes, or any consistency problems with the film, it's well-acted, well-written, well-shot, and well worth your time.