Here we are again with the summer movie season at a slow start.
Needless to say. Hollywood isn’t too happy. Instead of looking
inward, the Hollywood execs will continue place the blame on downloading
Cinderella Man is another period piece with what is considered
a strong pedigree by the Hollywood community. The film has Academy
Award-winning director, Opie; an Academy Award-winning
screenwriter, Goldsman (I like to call him the
hack who wrote Batman And Robin); and of course, Academy
Award-winning acting talent in Russell Crowe and
former University of Texas student Renee Zellweger. Well,
if you wanted a movie to be a stronger contender for the 2006 Academy
Awards than this one, it would need to be uber-schmaltzy, nigh-melodramatic,
and be a biopic of sorts. Uh waitaminute… nevermind.
Cinderella Man, or Seabiscuit: Part II, Electric
Boogaloo, is yet another Depression-era “microcosm”
as Gary Ross would say. The American spirit is
waning, so we need an underdog to fight symbolically for the American
dream, inspiring people to buck up and work through the hard times.
I will say the story of boxer James Braddock (Crowe),
who fights to support his family, is slightly more compelling than
a narrative about derby horse racing.
I did appreciate one element of the story—the juxtaposition
of the Roaring ’20s to the Depression. The transition is very
sudden and reflects how life was good and so much was just ripped
away, and then living became a struggle. We were careless, fat,
and happy, which, for many, made the time of the Great Depression
that much more humbling. And it appears that no one understood humility
in Cinderella Man more than Crowe’s Braddock.
Losing his fighting license and seeing his family reduced to ripping
wood off signs just to keep warm motivates Braddock to fight and
go on. With the unselfish help from his fight trainer, Joe Gould
(Giamatti, exceptional as usual), Braddock can
fight once again—the threat of losing his family being the
incentive to never lose.
Performances are strong, especially from Crowe, Giamatti, and Zellweger.
However, there are some scenes with Braddock and his family that
are so overdone and harrowing that one almost feels like the characters
should lean back and cover their foreheads with their arms. The
actors ground it fairly well, but as my acting teacher told me when
he was going through a similar rough patch, “Yeah your life
is terrible, but we’re gonna make it through. And then you
make it through and you think, ‘That wasn’t so bad after
all.’” However, that takes perspective and hindsight
If Braddock is the Cinderella of the story, that would make his
would-be opponent, world heavyweight boxing champion, Max
Baer (Bierko), our wicked stepmother.
Baer is such a ridiculously slimy, evil scumbag, at one point I
was expecting him to give the virtuous Braddock an apple or twirl
his mustache—sadly a two-dimensional and disappointing antagonist.
The movie definitely takes a biased, romantic, and flawless view
of our hero, Braddock.
The boxing is definitely one of the strongest aspects of the movie.
The choreography is very clever, and the shots and strikes looked
and sounded quite convincing. The editing effectively integrates
the journalists and photographers taking snaps of the match.
I’d say overall that Cinderella Man is a much more
effective movie than A Beautiful Mind. Braddock is a much
more sympathetic figure, and despite more “woe is me”
moments, you really can’t help rooting for the underdog. And
what’s better than seeing Crowe do what he does best…
—Jeffrey “The Vile One” Harris