Monday, January 10, 2005

Movie: Million Dollar Baby (2004)

Maybe it’s the fact that Clint Eastwood works in an unfussy, no-nonsense style that demonstrates a complete faith in his material. Maybe it’s that his latest effort is steeped in the moodiest strains of Irish Catholicism, and as a former altar boy I’m vulnerable to it. Whatever it is, this movie had me reeling. It’s a powerful piece of work.

The details are what register. The way Hilary Swank is careful to lick the frosting off the candle she removes from her birthday cake. The tatty shirts that Eastwood’s character wears. The bits and pieces steadily accrue to create a fully lived-in cinematic world, as rich as any crafted by Wes Anderson.

Paul Haggis’ adaptation of the story by F. X. Toole is a marvel of construction. Even the use of voiceover (brilliantly delivered by Morgan Freeman) has been well-considered, with a payoff that hits like a final shot at the bell.

Eastwood’s work as an actor has been getting short shrift here, most likely because of his modesty. His most powerful scene is shot half in shadow. But the emotion of that moment is undeniable. With this unprecedented late run of films (UNFORGIVEN, MYSTIC RIVER), Eastwood is offering a startling reappraisal of the kind of characters that made his career: loners who are all too familiar with violence. It’s obviously having an effect. When the movie ended, over half the audience stayed in their seats through the credits, unwilling - or unable - to leave.

Miscellaneous: Links

David Thomson had a similar experience when he saw the movie. And ALEXANDER: wha’ happen? The Observer anatomizes the failure of Oliver Stone’s epic. Both courtesy of GreenCine.