- Ron Howard
- Reviewed by
- Josť Ruiloba a.k.a. Morris
- Review date
- Monday, September 19, 2005
Jim Braddock (Russell Crowe) used to be a famous and successful heavyweight boxer married to a beautiful wife, Mae (Renťe Zellweger), with whom he had three children. But then the Depression hit, Jim got hurt, he started to lose his punch, and was obliged to leave the ring. While struggling to make a living and keep his family together, he suddenly got a second chance with the help of his old pal and manager Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti).
Serious movies tend to be made about complicated people. Complicated people usually provide intense situations and great drama. And even when thereís a lot of drama in Cinderella Man, it is not because of Jim, but rather because of the circumstances surrounding his life. As a matter of fact, Jim couldnít be simpler. All he wants in the world is to give his family a dignified life. He loves his wife and he loves his children, and he hates to see them suffer. That is what drives this man. And sometimes things as simple as that are the ones which hit right through our hearts.
Ron Howardís movie does nothing new or terribly original. His movie is predictable and we more or less know where things are going, following the sports movie formula to a tee. But sometimes it doesnít matter if weíve seen a similar story; itís the way in which it is told that greatness can surface. With this movie, Howard goes for sentimentality, but doesnít push it. He lets us know the characters, the situations, the stakes, and suddenly we are invested in these lives, and it all comes naturally. The movie just flows and pulls us in with expertise.
There are little details I liked that I would like to point out. For starters, it was a welcome surprise that Mae, as Jimís wife, does not become a pain in the ass like wives usually do in this kind of stories. She stands by her man, she loves him, and sheíll stand by him as long as she can. The movie tells a true story, but Howard does not say it and I liked that detail as well. Iíve heard that boxer Max Baer (Craig Bierko) was not as horrible a person as depicted in the movie, yet they had to exaggerate that aspect to give the movie its dramatic punch. Watching it solely as a movie, the device works, yet Baerís family is also entitled to have their own opinion.
Howard is also able to create pretty exciting boxing sequences. When Jim is in the ring, the movie sizzles. And even though I knew the outcome of the final fight, it just works because of the extraordinary editing, direction and acting. Itís a nerve-wracking last half hour.
My favorite scene is a rather quieter one. In it, Jim goes to his old pals, some of which are rich, prominent people in the boxing scene, and asks them for money with hat in hand. Itís simply heart-breaking and Crowe excels in it.
As a matter of fact, he excels in the entire movie. I didnít expect less from him, and he comes off extremely well, a great actor with great personality and amazing physicality as well. Zellweger is excellent as his wife. And the extraordinary Paul Giamatti plays it subtle but leaves a remarkable impression, an outstanding performance all the way. The kids are uniformly good, as is Craig Bierko as Jim's biggest opponent and Paddy Considine as Jim's friend and partner.
Other technical and artistic aspects are impeccable, with beautiful photography, and spot-on costumes, set design and music.
An inspirational story that certainly brought me to my feet.
ďI have to believe... that when things are bad... I can change them.Ē
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