Guest Blogger: Go see Cinderella Man. . .
Go see Cinderella Man. Quickly. It’s a great movie, so says the Chairman in the movie review below. You may beat me there, so please enjoy it doubly.
But it’s not just about enjoyment . . . this is, after all “Politics in Real Life” here at Reasoned Audacity, so you knew I was going to sneak in the political subtext. Oh, yes.
The Chairman reports that this is a wonderful movie that celebrates family, doesn’t mock people of faith, and is for grown-ups, as well as the coveted teenage boys market. Nice for a change. But according to Box Office Mojo, the movie had a “disappointing” opening:
Director Ron Howard’s $88 million Depression-era drama starring Russell Crowe as boxer James J. Braddock got off to a wobbly start, delivering an estimated $18.6 million at 2,812 venues in fourth place.
So those of us who would like Hollywood to make movies that are inspiring and uplifting need to support this one — we need to send the message that positive, wholesome movies sell theatre tickets.
The following from the Chairman . . .
“You want to go see what?” I said.
“Cinderella Man,” she said.
“But that’s a boxing movie,” I said.
“I know. What time shall I reserve the tickets for?” she said.
Hey, if the birthday girl says she wants to go see a Depression-era boxing movie, I’m gonna take her to see it even if it does star bad boy Russell Crowe who doesn’t do much for me. Well, okay, Gladiator wasn’t bad but . . .
I can’t pinpoint the moment when my reservations about the flick began to fade away. It didn’t have a lot to do with the chemistry between Crowe and Zellweger; she isn’t my cup of tea either. Mostly it had to do with the fact that Crowe played Jim Braddock not as some swaggeringly tough fighter, but as the quintessentially good family man . . . from start to finish . . . without a blemish. This fact alone is probably what allowed me to care about him and his wife and his children.
He made me care because he was just so decent. It left me wondering how a man could be so decent and yet be such a slugger in the ring. He was a ferocious fighter, but I never got the sense that he had any malicious feelings toward his opponents . . . well, maybe Max Baer was the exception.
Boxing was just Braddock’s talent, his profession. Most importantly, it was a means of providing for his family. It never became his life. Braddock’s family was his life.
I understand how his comeback after a year out of the ring earned him the moniker “Cinderella Man,” but given the story told by this movie, it might more aptly have been titled, The Passion of the Family Man. At the outset we are shown how injury and the Depression stripped Braddock of nearly everything: his career, his home, everything but his character and values. We see the family’s desperate fight to survive and stay together during the depression . . . and their decency remains intact when everything else lies in ruin. And we care about them.
I became so gripped by the story that I lost sight of what the actors were doing. The cast was totally believable so they never got in the way of the story — some of the credit for this goes to the director, Ron Howard. I would never have believed that Russell Crowe could have acted the role of Braddock with such a low-keyed, self-effacing dignity.
There are several great scenes in this movie that will always stick with me. But one scene is particularly powerful. On the comeback trail, Braddock is asked by a reporter: “What are you fighting for?”
Instinctively, I cringed inside in anticipation of the response I was expecting the Hollywood machine to put in his mouth. But perhaps it is a new day. Perhaps the evident appeal to the American people of Mel Gibson’s The Passion has taught the Tinseltown crowd a thing or two. Perhaps Ron Howard was infected by some of the values from his boyhood when he was playing Opie Taylor on the Andy Griffith Show.
Since I had no warning of what was coming, I braced myself for an answer that would make the movie’s old-fashioned hero into something compatible with today’s ubiquitous, politically correct, egoistic values . . . something that would harmonize with the notions of heroically persisting to achieve ambition’s dream.
But, no! My mind had to race to get out of the defensive crouch that it reflexively assumes from much experience with the usual Hollywood tripe. All of that was swept away by the good family man’s terse answer.
Without hesitation or pandering, Braddock shot back, “For milk.”
There is also a lesson from the film that I will long remember. In the early days of his career, Braddock didn’t have much of a left-hand punch to go with his thunderous right. But in the year he was out of boxing after breaking his right hand, he worked on the dock to feed his family. With the right hand in a cast, he had to do all of the heavy lifting with his left hand. On the comeback trail, he surprised a lot of folks, including his manager, with what he could now do with his left. It seems that adversity had not only increased his grit and determination, it had transformed his ineffective left as well.
I have no doubt that in the long run, this inspiring movie will be recognized for the classic it is. I hope, however, that it will also be a tremendous box office success and continue to hammer home to the entertainment industry that there is a very large segment of the public that is eager to see pictures that teach what it means for a man to love his wife and children. To teach this generation — like the Greatest Generation of the Twentieth Century — that even the prospect of death should not deter them from obedience to the call of honor and duty. To inspire them to do “the things which ought to be done.”
Almighty and most merciful Father,
we have erred and strayed from thy ways like lost sheep,
we have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts,
we have offended against thy holy laws,
we have left undone those things which we ought to have done,
and we have done those things which we ought not to have done.
Steve Beard says the movie is “a knockout.” (And also says that Renee Zellweger got to read 200 letters that Mae and James Braddock wrote to one another!) Frederica Mathewes-Green, over at NRO, calls it a knockout too and agrees with the Chairman that the movie portrays “what today’s audiences are wistful for”: an honorable man.
Plugged In Online (from Focus on the Family) says the movie is “powerful.” Though they, like many others, caution that the fight scenes are pretty gruesome. (This website, by the way, is indispensable for parents looking for the real scoop on movies for their kids.)
Barbara Nicolosi says “I can’t see how boxing is something Christians can defend.” And, she also says the movie lacks the Necessary Ingredient of “mystery.” Interesting.
Jeffery Overstreet of “Looking Closer” only gives the movie a “B.”