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The dilemma: I hate boxing movies; I love Russell Crowe movies. I've
already seen "Million Dollar Baby" and "Raging Bull" this year, and
accidentally watched part of one of the "son of Rocky" serial movies on
a Saturday afternoon. I feel like I am being punched, as Renee'
Zellwegger's character Mae Braddock says, and I'm not as tough as these
But this one has Russell Crowe in it. And that makes all the difference.
It is not that Renee Zellwegger and Paul Giamatti, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill and Craig Bierko, among others, give less than stellar performances: they all live up to their justifiably great reputations. You have to believe they are at the top of their game. But for all of Russell Crowe's reputation for being "difficult", it is hard to think of actors who can equal his personal force on the screen. He is brilliant.
Ron Howard has made of the real life of Depression-era prize-fighter James J. Braddock a work of art. The camera work is phenomenal. Without using violins or cliché' pull-back shots showing the numbers of people homeless and in soup lines, Howard makes the Depression a visceral reality with scenes of near-hopeless men at the docks, pleading for a day's work; a stolen salami; Crowe's giving his daughter his breakfast piece of bologna, telling her he dreamed he was full. The bleakness of the times is the graininess and the sepia/greyness of the camera shots; the images are stark but completely descriptive. Crowe as Braddock with hat in hand and tears in his eyes, begging for twenty dollars so he can get his children back into his home, is the personification of pride sacrificed to desperation. But when Braddock is later asked at a press conference why he is fighting at his age and after so many poor showings, all he has to say is "milk" to be supremely eloquent.
Doubtless many people know the history of James Braddock, and know the outcome of his fights, including the championship bout with Max Baer, who had already killed two men in the ring. If you don't know, DON'T look it up before you see the movie, and if you DO KNOW, DON'T TELL, but go. Analogous to watching Howard's film "Apollo 13", you may know the outcome, but there's wonderful suspense in the details. These were among the most exciting last twenty minutes I've seen on film. I didn't expect to be able to watch, but like Braddock's terrified wife Mae, I was unable to tear myself away.
The audience was like a prize fight audience, cheering, booing, gasping, groaning during the fights. We applauded Braddock's wins, suffered his defeats. It is a great movie, with authentic heart. Solid A.
Geez, another boxing movie! Yeah, Yeah, I know the story. Down and out
guy gets a break and makes the most of it. He's fighting for his
family, he's fighting for all those other hopeless people. Been there,
Oh, I forgot to mention one thing. This movie is about the best 140 minute I've spent in a movie theater since . . . . since . . . ., Oh, well, you get the picture. Better yet, instead of getting the picture, go see it.
Russell Crowe owns the character of James Braddock, the unlikely hero who makes the most of his second chance. He's a good fighter turned hack. Injury, bad luck and this thing called the Depression sends him down the drain.
His wife, Mae, played by Renee Zelleweger, wants to be his biggest fan, but the kids need a dad, the rent has to get paid and the money from boxing dried up along time ago. Her husband's courage is undoubted, but his nerve is killing her.
And then there's Joe Gould, played by Paul Giamatti.
A boxer by the name of George Cochan once told me his manager was the bravest man he ever knew, he was willing to pit his man (Cochan) against anyone. As a result, Cochan had his head handed to him multiple times by the likes of Jake LaMotta and other class middle weights of the Forties and Fifties. Gould, is that brave manager, if not literally, in spirit. He pits Braddock, out of shape and with one day notice, against the number two heavy weight contender. Regardless of the risk, it's a pay day needed by both Gould and Braddock.
The story, while familiar, is executed brilliantly. The camera work is both subtle and, in turn, spectacular. Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill and the rest of the cast give flawless performances.
Yes, been there, done that! And I'm ready to do it again for anyone who wants to go with me.
My heart was firmly lodged in my throat for the last hour and a half of
The Cinderella Man. Nobody does true-story heroism like Ron Howard, and
few can do heroes like Russell Crowe. Though Howard fictionalizes his
subjects, and does not pretend to make documentaries, he does
accurately depict the feeling and the major points of his subjects.
Jim Braddock was a depression-era boxer who everybody thought was down for the count. Though there is a lot of boxing in this film, this is not a boxing movie, but rather his story and the story of the family that inspired him to fight back against prejudice and hopelessness, to rise to heights that would inspire a nation. Braddock is portrayed in a moving and powerful manner, with remarkable performances all around, one of the best scripts I can remember in recent years, and occasionally brutal action.
Those who have run into my reviews may note that this is one of my shortest. Please understand that I really don't think there's much to say about this simple, beautiful and very human story, besides - see it!
I saw this film on May 17th in Indianapolis. I am one of the judges for
the Heartland Film Festival that screens films for their Truly Moving
Picture Award. A Truly Moving Picture "...explores the human journey by
artistically expressing hope and respect for the positive values of
life." Heartland gave that award to this film.
The impact of this film on the viewer is as powerful as Rocky and Million Dollar Baby. While all three films have boxing and love of the underdog as a common theme, this movie is much more. The backdrop of the movie is Depression-era America around NYC. And you are taken back to this depressing and hopeless time of willing, hard-working, idle, discouraged, poor people.
The threesome of Russell Crowe, as the fighter Braddock, and Renee Zellweger, as his wife, and Paul Giamatti, as his manager were Academy-Award worthy. They professionally played their parts and let the story be the real star.
Braddock is a down-on-his-luck aging and hurt boxer who can no longer box and can no longer find enough work to support his wife and three kids. By a twist of fate, he is given another chance to fight, and his career begins again.
Braddock and his wife display low-key dignity and honor that we wish we all had. They are good spouses, parents, neighbors and citizens without "showing off." While this is a serious drama, it has a lot of light humor throughout the picture that is entertaining and appropriate. Director Ron Howard does a wonderful storytelling job and has kept directorial tricks to a minimum. The fight scenes were the most real I have seen in any movie.
This is film-making at its best.
FYI - There is a Truly Moving Pictures web site where there is a listing of past winners going back 70 years.
This is a truly great film. Russel Crowe, Rene Zellweger and Paul
Giametti were all fabulous. Russell Crowe is the best actor of our
time. I am not a boxing fan, but I was so engrossed by the character of
the Cinderalla Man that I was totally involved in every punch. I didn't
know how the story would end, so I had the added thrill of suspense
during the final fight.
The story of a family in the midst of the Great Depression was as compelling as the boxing story. The solid family man played by Russell gives us a much needed role model. The historical and socio-economic background was powerfully shown and greatly added to the audience's involvement and is particularly relevant to today. This is a classic film.
I also went to a sneak preview of this movie last night, and it was good enough for me to join this site and write my first review. It did start out kind of slow, but the complete rainbow of emotions was contained in this movie. There were parts that nearly made you cry. There were parts that made you laugh out loud. I could barely contain my excitement during the last 15-20 minutes of the movie, I just wanted to scream out loud I was so excited. When we left the theater there was a ~60 year old woman delicately shadow boxing on her way out the door. Her husband asked her, "Are you winning?" She said, "I'm going to have dreams about this movie tonight." This was a great movie, and I would recommend it highly.
This is the best film Ron Howard has ever done. They really caught
lightning in a bottle with this one. All the departments brought their
A game to the table. I especially loved the editing and cinematography.
The cast is perfect and, under Ron Howard's confident hand, all give amazing performances. Russel Crowe's soulful performance puts him back in Maximus territory here and, boy, was this cat born to play these types of roles. Bruce McGill is in it (San Antonio, represent!!!) and that's always a good thing.
My only complaint (if it can be called that) is that the boxing sequences break no new ground. They are very reminiscent of the boxing sequences in Raging Bull. They are so well executed, however, that I quickly forgot about this small nitpick.
The script works on so many levels, it's not even funny. There is plenty of time devoted to character development and it pays off handsomely in the long run as we really care about Jim Braddock every time he steps in the ring.
All in all, Cinderella Man is a rousing, classy film that utterly satisfies.
"Cinderella Man" deserves to be placed alongside other great
biographical films dealing with the lives and times of great boxers.
Such films include "Raging Bull," "The Joe Louis Story," "Ali," "The
Hurricane," and "Ring of Fire: The Emile Griffith Story."
These films share in common not just a documentary-like approach to boxing or a superficial biopic. They also portray the human side of a modern gladiator and the culture that produced him. In the case of "Cinderella Man," we are given a detailed and heart-rending portrait of the Great Depression in American. The story of the gentleman pugilist James J. Braddock is the backdrop to the larger drama of Americans' struggle in the 1930s.
Russell Crowe provides a brilliant interpretation of Braddock, capturing the decency of a man whose career as a boxer would appear to have peaked at just the wrong time prior to the Crash of 1929. After that momentous event, Braddock's boxing went into decline just like the lives of millions of Americans. The scenes of Braddock and his family living in squalid conditions and with uncertainty about such basics as heat and electricity were carefully developed in the film. Renée Zellweger was outstanding as Mae, the caring but feisty wife of Braddock. Paul Giamatti was also excellent as Braddock's handler-manager, Joe Gould. Joe tries to keep up appearances by sporting fancy clothes. But in one revealing scene in the film when we see the interior of Joe's ostensibly swanky apartment, there is no fancy furniture other than a dowdy table and some flimsy deck chairs. Everyone is reeling from the Depression. In the depiction of the massive unemployment, the "Hoovervilles" of the homeless residing in Central Park, and the desperate need for Americans for an optimistic icon like Braddock to raise their spirits, the film truly captured the tragedy of the Great American Depression.
The film's director Ron Howard emphasized close-ups throughout the film with uneven results. In many of the boxing sequences, the close-ups and rapid editing made it difficult tell the fighters apart. The close-ups continued even into the domestic scenes and the outdoor sequences depicting Braddock working as a longshoreman. The film's dark cinematography conveyed the bleakness of the Depression years, but it worked against bringing out the buoyant spirit of Braddock himself and the optimism that he instilled in others. As a director, Howard's strength is not in film artistry or technique. As apparent in this and other films, his gift lies in narrative storytelling and the development of dramatic character.
Indeed, the characters and the story were the strong points of "Cinderella Man." Much credit should go to Cliff Hollingsworth for a screenplay that included thoughtful dialogue, humor, and multi-dimensional characters. Daniel Orlandi also merits praise for the brilliant costumes that helped to recreate the period of the early 1930s.
But the heart of this film experience is Russell Crowe's screen portrayal of Braddock. It was the colorful sportswriter and raconteur Damon Runyan who coined the nickname of "Cinderella Man" for Braddock. However, the real James J. Braddock was more than lucky. It was his strength of character in and out of the ring that captivated America. One of the most moving scenes of the film was a heated argument between Braddock and his wife Mae where Braddock insists that even in the most difficult of times, he would refuse to be separated from his children. As a boxer, he was fearless. But he demonstrated even more courage in fighting for family valuesa lesson from which we can learn a great deal today in reflecting on this sensitive film.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Crowe is perfectly likable as the 'Pride of New Jersey' and the
champion of his wife's heart, being knocked down by the stock market
crash of '29 and a broken right hand
Jim Braddock (Crowe) is compelled to feed his family with whatever work he could get on the Jersey docks However, thanks to a last minute cancellation and some effort by his close friend and longtime trainer, he found himself back in the ring Knowing now that the difference between winning and losing is how much food and warmth he can provide for his wife and kids, Jim finds the motivation that he needed to win the match
Crowe conveys with great sincerity the feeling of desperation of a humble man giving his all to his family and his profession as a boxer At his lowest moment, Braddock swallows the last of his pride and goes before the Boxing Federation who fired him from boxing (because he hasn't been winning, mostly due to injuries), begging them for pocket change to buy "milk" for his children In this powerful scene, we truly feel the harsh reality of those times
Crowe is tremendously appealing in scenes depicting his tender relationship with his children: His care while telling his hungry little daughter about his dream of a thick juice steak persuading her to eat his meager supper because he is too full to eat it, his love when promising his oldest son, Jay, he'll never send him away, no matter how bad things get
The supporting cast is exceptional:
Renee Zellwegger is very good as Braddock's adoring wife She is a soft-spoken blond, shy-eyed type, who remains strong no matter how much force is exerted against it, making do with watered-down milk Her need to let Jimmy fight, and to bring money to pay the bills, always gets shattered by her fear that one day he will walk out the door to leave her a widow
Paul Giamatti is terrific as the fast-talking boxing manager trying to keep up appearances of success amidst the depression
Craig Bierko amuses but terrifies as the much-feared Max Baer whose pleasant face masks the heart of a man who will do anything to win The film makes Baer out to be an arrogant figure, who enjoys beating and even killing his rivals in the ring Seeing Braddock's wife Mae, Baer utters, "She's too young to be a widow."
With dramatic images of the Depression Era, Howard's "The Cinderella Man" is a fine boxing motion picture, very entertaining and sentimental The boxing sequences are wonderfully photographed, bringing the audience right into the ring We can really feel the cool, oily, smoky sweatiness of the "world's most famous arena."
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
I went to a preview screening here in Minneapolis last night, 5/5/05.
They said that we were the first people in Minnesota to see the move.
Well, let me just say that this is one of the best movies that I've
ever seen - Russell Crowe and Ron Howard have done it again! It starts
a bit slow, but it gives you background into the life of Jimmy
Braddock, a once great boxer who fell into hard times because of the
great depression. Him and his family experienced all the heartaches
that everyone else did at that time.
Even though he retired from boxing (he was viewed as a joke), his manager (Giamatti) got him one fight against a #1 contender to the belt. Everyone expected Jimmy to lose....I'll leave you to see the movie from here on out! Everyone was SUPERB in their roles, and there's no reason that Crowe, Giamatti, Zellweger, and Howard shouldn't be up for nominations. It was an outstanding movie, my heart was POUNDING during the last 15 minutes. After the movie, everyone stood up and cheered...EVERYONE! It was fabulous, and plan on seeing it again when it comes out Nationwide. Go see this movie!!!!
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