Monday, July 20, 2015
"Cinderella Man" with Russell Crowe, Paul Giamatti and Renee Zellweger (2005)
Okay, I’m 10 years behind on this film. I didn’t like the cover. Really, I’m a victim of choosing books and movies by their covers; in spite of the age old adage which advises against the practice. I always like to point out the many wonderful books and movies I have been exposed to using my method; but I sometimes feel that I may be missing out on an equal number of really great books and movies simply because they have lousy covers. The only defense I can give is that I can’t read and watch everything, so I’ll have to stick with my somewhat flawed system.
James Braddock was an American boxer who rose to prominence in the late 1920’s, peaking in 1929 when he was defeated in a fight that would have placed him in position to go for the championship. With that defeat began a 4 year odyssey of day jobs, dock work and even asking former friends and acquaintances for handouts. During this time his family was near starvation as the Great Depression gripped the country. The cities were often hit the hardest, simply because of the amount of people looking for the few jobs that were available.
Renee Zellweger is absolutely perfect as Braddock’s wife; standing by her man when the food is all gone and the power shut off. With 4 kids to provide for she often went hungry herself so that the children could eat. Braddock also skipped meals to help keep the family together, but at one point his wife is forced to send the children to stay with relatives until she and Jim can get the power back on and put some food on the table.
Braddock’s big break comes in the form of an offer to fight Max Baer, the boxing champion who had already killed 2 men in the ring. You know you are down on your luck when your biggest break is fighting someone like Max Baer. To get an idea of how big he was physically, look no further than Jethro on the Beverly Hillbillies. That’s Max Baer, Jr., the son of the legendary fighter.
With no other prospects open to him, Braddock decides to take the fight. His former manager, played with great effect by Paul Giamatti, advances him several hundred dollars to get back in shape for the event. He got the money by hocking all of his furniture.
As the training progresses the press has a wonderful time pitting the two men against one another. Max Baer warns Braddock against fighting him. He even reminds Braddock that he has killed 2 men in the ring already and would love to make Braddock number 3; if only to be able to comfort the widow. (At this point in the film I was ready to fight the son of a bitch myself!)
Braddock wins the brutal fight in a match which stuns both the spectators and especially the press; which had been openly scornful of Braddock’s attempt at a comeback. The fight sequences are staged extremely well, with both fighters pummeling like pistons in an effort to bring the other one down. Although Braddock doesn’t knock Baer out, he has clearly taxed the other man to a draw, making him the winner over the arrogant “Champ.” (I was actually cheering at the end of the fight when he defeats Baer.)
A great screenplay by Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman; from the story by Mr. Hollingsworth; this film was done very well by one of the best directors of our time, Opie Taylor; I mean Ron Howard. I doubt if anyone else missed this film, but if you did, it’s not too late. And aside from seeing a great movie, you will save me the dubious distinction of having been the last person to see it…