Million Dollar Baby (2004)
Clint Eastwood's Oscar-winning film disconcertingly shifts between being banal and clichéd and truly poignant and dramatically powerful. It is a film packed with interesting aspects, directed wonderfully by Eastwood with a remarkable sense of pacing that lets the viewer get under the characters skin and lets him feel the joy and pain they experience. This enhances Eastwood's performance (which starts off as flat and unnuanced as he's ever been) and in the film's final third, he and a through-out magnificent Hilary Swank share many fine moments. Unfortunately, in order to get there, television screenwriter Paul Haggis takes us through a bundle of dreary dialogue and some very one-dimensional characterizations. The Danger character being the worst example (terribly over-played by Jay Baruchel) and Maggie's mother and brother being close seconds. Eastwood has many fine touches and portrays the boxing business truly and respectfully, but the film is too often too idealistic and romantic; the characters here undergo such important changes and learn so much existential when they should that their initial plainness and simplicity seem a bit contrived. There was a time when people thought most problems could be fixed by adding Morgan Freeman as a narrator, but his sleepwalking unfortunately lacks any form of vigor.