Monday, June 06, 2005

Cinderella Man

dir. Ron Howard

I don't make it a habit going into a film I haven't seen carrying any baggage or expectations; I try my hardest to go into a film with no expectations at all. That's why usually I try to see a film I'm dying to see on opening weekend because I want to hear as little reaction as possible before seeing it. Of course with the internet turning into every movie studio's own publicity bargain bin; you could know every damn thing about a movie a year before it even comes out. I say this as a bit of a set-up to what I'm going to get into a little bit before I give my opinion on this film. Simply put, I had no desire to see "Cinderella Man." Let me explain.

First off, I don't like Ron Howard movies the majority of the time. He has directed one movie I absolutely love, and that would be "Parenthood." I also really like "Apollo 13" and "Cocoon" for the most part. Most of Howard's films I find to be on a dire level of mediocricy. These would be films like: "The Missing," "Gung Ho," "Ransom," "Far and Away," etc. There are also three films of his that would easily make my top 25 worst films of all time list: "Willow," "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "Splash."

Also, I really don't care for Renee Zellwegger or Russell Crowe. Crowe's only good performance for me has been as Bud White in "L.A. Confidential." Zellwegger really hasn't done anything for me since her lovely debut in "Jerry Maguire." It's not that either actor has been terrible in their performances since then; I think most of it for me has revolved more around bad film choices and being miscast.

Finally, all three of these people, in one way or another, have been part of three of the most undeserving "Best Picture" winners in the history of the Oscars: "Gladiator" (Crowe), "A Beautiful Mind" (Crowe and Howard), and "Chicago" (Zellwegger). In fact, the only positives I really carried into this film were that I usually do like movies about boxing, and Paul Giamatti is an actor who's work I usually enjoy.

So, that being said, and after seeing the movie twice, I throw away all of my previous prejudices and can freely admit that I absolutely love this film. This is not only Ron Howard's best film since "Apollo 13," this is Ron Howard's best film, period. This is not only Zellwegger's and Crowe's best performances since "L.A. Confidential" and "Jerry Maguire," these are their best performances yet. This is not only the best boxing movie since "Raging Bull," this is far and away the best boxing film I've ever seen, and trust me, I've seen just about every one of them.

The story of Jim Braddock is a great American underdog story, and Howard and Crowe knock it out of the park. Braddock is not an unrealistic underdog either, like say Rocky. That is no offense to "Rocky," that is a great film as well, but realistic? I don't think so. Braddock is only classified as an underdog due to his age and the past few years of fights leading up to his comeback in 1934 and 1935. However, after his fight with Max Baer in 1935, he proved that he deserved his comeback. This isn't one of those situations where our hero is down in the dumps through most of the fight and then miraculously comes back to kick some ass. In fact, in the historic fight with Baer, Braddock pretty much takes control of the bout after the third round. Braddock is in the great tradition of other sports underdogs (Seabiscuit, the U.S. Hockey team in 1980). He won because on that given night, he was the best fighter, he was the best man. If Braddock and Baer had fought ten times, Baer most likely would have won nine of them. Thankfully Braddock was there the one night he would win.

The fights in this film are the most realistic ones to be put to celluloid. As Chris mentioned, they are beautifully choreographed see-saw battles. In every one of these fights you feel the pain the fighters are dealing with. Howard also sets up a lot of nice shots throughout the fights; my favorite being how he uses the newspaper photographer's flashbulbs as camera cuts.

As I already stated, Crowe and Zellwegger are wonderful. Crowe gives a much more subtle turn than his usual over the top shenanigans (ala "Gladiator), and Zellwegger is back to her "Jerry Maguire" cuteness, and her character is also given a tough side. It was nice to see she just wasn't a stereotypical wife standing by her husband no matter how stupid he's being. Giamatti is wonderful here as usual; I almost perfer him in a good supporting role, and this is no insult to him. Many of our finest actors, Christopher Walken and Peter Lorre to name a couple, are much better suited in supporting roles than they are in leads. I also liked Craig Bierko's performance as Max Baer; the man who thought of himself more as a celebrity than a boxer. Bierko has given some nice performances in other good movies like "The Long Kiss Goodnight" and "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas," but this might finally be the role that gets him some bigger roles in the future. With those cartoonish eyes, he'd be perfect as a villain in a "Batman" or "Spiderman" film; he'd make a hell of a Joker if that's the villain Christopher Nolan is planning on using in the next "Batman" film.

I don't really know what else to say except believe all the hype this film is getting. It's the real deal, the genuine article. So quit reading this already and go see the damn film.



At 6/07/2005 09:59:00 AM, Blogger Kennelworthy said...

Wow. Guess I better see this thing, eh?

Too bad Batman comes out in a week...and then War of the Worlds...and so on and so forth.

Thing about summer is, there's too many movies you want to see and something always slips through the cracks. I hope that Cindarella Man isn't that type of film for me.

At 6/07/2005 03:52:00 PM, Blogger Jonathan said...

Definately don't let it slip through the cracks. And I keep forgetting about "War of the Worlds." That looks bad ass; I cannot wait for that one. Hell, I'm even looking forward to "Fantastic Four;" it was one of my favorite comic books growing up. They'll probably screw it up, but you never know.


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