Cinderella Man makes an interesting companion-piece to director Ron
Howard, star Russell Crowe and screenwriter Akiva Goldsman's last
collaboration -- the 2001 Best Picture winner A Beautiful Mind.
In the new film, like the other one, the filmmakers gaze into the past and
tell the story of an extraordinary man shackled by ordinary life. They
resurrect the story of a person who has been mostly forgotten by history,
but who had an astonishing life.
J. Braddock was an up-and-coming boxer expected to contend for the title
when the United States was thrust into the throes of the Great Depression.
Hounded by injuries and bad luck, within a few years he was sparring in
little dives for little or no money at night, and then going down to the
docks by day in hopes of being one of the few picked for hard labor.
His original earnings were long gone; the money had been invested in stocks
and was decimated by the market crash. All he had left was a tiny
apartment, his faithful wife and three small children.
boxing promoter (Bruce McGill) decides that Braddock is completely shot as a
fighter and has his boxing license revoked, Braddock is desperate because
one of his small lifelines of salary has evaporated. Only his
long-time trainer Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti) still believes in the fighter,
and even he can only do so much to help him. Soon the bills are piling
up, the electricity is being turned off, there is not enough food or milk
for his family. Still, Braddock refuses to feel sorry for himself or
change his essential goodness. He scolds his son for stealing a salami
and forces him to take it back to the butcher even though the family
desperately needs it. No matter how bad things get, he tells the boy,
they are not thieves.
Finally, though, with the possibility of losing his home and his children,
Braddock must do the hardest thing he has ever done. He goes to
Madison Square Garden and begs from the people who used to be his peers.
desperate deed inspires another act of charity, Gould gets the boxing
commission to allow Braddock one last fight. It is a complete dead end
fight, a championship contender was supposed to have a fight in two days,
but his opponent was injured. There is no time to train and no name
contender is willing to fight that quickly. Gould knows it is a good
payday that Braddock could use and a nice farewell to the boxing game.
However a funny thing happens, the prohibitive underdog Braddock
actually wins the fight.
leads to another fight and then another. His hard life has given
Braddock the skills and the desire that he lacked on the first go around.
His career, his pride and his financial situation slowly rights itself.
Braddock was a humble man. As he acknowledged openly, many people
suffered more than he did. He has grown to appreciate what he had and
what he lost.
the resurrection was symbolized by the heavyweight champion, Max Baer
(played by Craig Bierko). I know that Baer was a great boxer, but I
have to admit I had a tiny bit of trouble taking him seriously as a threat
because of a biographical tidbit which was understandably not mentioned in
the film -- Baer's son Max Jr. would grow up to play the grinning yokel
Jethro Beaudine on the long-running sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies.
turns in yet another spectacular performance, he inhabits Braddock.
Giamatti also does stellar work (though his gruff vocal inflections can be a
bit distracting). Zellweger is good enough in her role, but there is a
lot less to it than the other two, all she really has to be is be supportive
and be worried.
seems like every year Russell Crowe releases a movie that is likely to be
right in the middle of the Oscar race, and this film will continue that
is rousing old-fashioned entertainment and the kind of
succeeding-against-all-odds story that makes the Academy salivate.
It's just icing on the cake that the movie is deserving of the accolades.
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Posted: June 11, 2005.