alienated from his daughter for reasons unknown – feel previously explored. Plus, name the last inventive boxing drama you’ve seen. It very well may be Karyn Kusama’s Girlfight . Now that’s ironic. Anyway, Eastwood’s boxing routines are hard-hitting street fights, choreographed dances of broken noses and below-the-belt cheap shots. Yes, it’s a metaphor for the bruises these fighters and their trainers carry outside the ring, but it lands the appropriate punches. There’s ample material to sink our teeth into outside the ring, as well. The director collaborates with screenwriter Paul Haggis to lay thick, rich soil, so Frankie’s relationship with Maggie can take strong root. Hard truths linger around every corner in this cut-to-the-bone drama, and Haggis pens some tough life lessons linked to tough compromises. Eastwood’s anaemic filmmaking method complements the material. A few blues notes picked on a guitar establish mood. A glance around Frankie’s gym reveals stark walls and spare corners. Tom Stern’s cinemato- graphy is both beautiful and bare. Thinking back, one almost remembers Baby as being shot in black and white. It’s not, but the color scheme feels that muted and unimportant. It’s a clever device, intentional or not. Even when Maggie competes against an abnormally chiselled female counterpart (Lucia Rijker) for the title, they seem to be fighting in a long-forgotten community auditorium in the middle of nowhere. Morgan Freeman, playing a former boxer and Frankie’s long-time friend, establishes a grumpy-old-trainer yin-and-yang chemistry with his director. They’re no-nonsense men with no time for bullshit. Frankie, in particular, wears the traits of the overprotective father figure on his ragged sleeves, and Haggis’ screenplay establishes the role – and Freeman’s companion part – as men imparting stubborn life lessons on those they deem young enough to benefit from some impartial words of wisdom. The picture starts rough, but the unrefined elements start to gel as Baby progresses. Swank’s labored Bible Belt drawl initially grates the ears but grows serene and comfortable by the end credits. Her scrappy, dogged performance makes Maggie more than bearable. Her willingness to absorb an unbeautiful role and find attractiveness in it makes her turn memorable, almost remarkable. Not all of it flies, however. Eastwood fails to develop all of the broad characters populating Frankie’s gym. “Danger” Barch (Jay Baruchel), an ignorant Texan training at the facility, has a better shot at bedding Kate Beckinsale then he does of capturing a Copyright © 2005, Durham Continuing Education Page 34 of 35
ENG4U – English Unit 2 – Lesson 10 heavyweight title. His uninspiring quandaries surface whenever we need a break from Maggie’s dramatic ascension, but the crumbs of story we’re given don’t equal a satisfying meal.
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