Million Dollar Baby is a movie masterpiece that was directed by Clint Eastwood. The film won critical acclaim and beat major categories in various awards. This movie tells the story of Maggie who is (played by Hillary Swank) a young working lady who has ambitions of one day dominating the female boxing world. After a lot of convincing, the wizened Frankie (played by Clint Eastwood) gives in to Maggie’s proposal of training her. With Frankie as her trainer Maggie gets on the road to become a professional female boxer. With rigorous training and Frankie giving her pointers on how to knockout her opponents, Maggie conquers the boxing world until a spinal injury brings a devastating halt to her blooming career. She becomes a quadriplegic and is very depressed. As a result of pressure ulcers her leg is amputated and Maggie can’t bear it anymore and convinces Frankie to euthanize her.
This movie portrays the image of a working class woman who is of the opinion that class is something that should be overcome. Maggie grew up being poor and lacks critical class consciousness. She is of the perception that the world despises her by the general virtue that she comes from poverty. She despises her hillbilly roots. In the movie she comes off as being sensible because she has her own class mythology. She understands the limitations that comes with her class, even when she is in the boxing ring she fights to transcend these limits. The determination to succeed in the boxing world even though she is perceived as being too old for the sport at 32 years of age is for the love of the sport (Toole 35). From another perspective she wants to conquer the boxing world to avoid the working class life as well as a working class body.
Maggie explains in her own words that without boxing she can expect a world of “Oreos and a deep fryer”. Therefore in order to escape her roots and to move up the social class she has to employ her body as the vehicle. The body is something that Maggie is appears to run from. The movie is linked to denial or making unconscious of the body. Maggie denies her girl-ness and prefers to work with Frankie even after he turned her down twice. Frankie bluntly told her that he was not interested in training a girl. After he reconsidered and accepted to train her, he constantly reminded her not to behave like one. The theme of Maggie denying her body is also portrayed through the sport itself because in this cinematic conception it is the most Cartesian of all sports (Toole 60). Frankie helps her deny her body because when she gets bloody and injured it is his job to patch it up. The patching part addresses the leakiness of the feminine.
Eddie Scrap-Iron Dupris played by Morgan Freeman is Frankie’s best friend and has been working at the gym for a long time. He is Frankie’s partner in conversations that have coiled down through time. Scrap is Frankie’s only friend and he knows that his boss and friend, has many burdens. Among these burdens is Frankie’s daily attendance at mass. Frankie has been an ardent attendee to mass for decades at St. Marks Church. In one of the scenes in the movie, he asks Fr. Horvak played by Brian O’Byrne to disseminate and clarify the doctrine of the Trinity. Fr. Horvak brushes aside Frankie’s question sensing that it was some sort of dodge from what Frankie really wanted and he was right because Frankie wanted to make peace with God and not catechism classes.
The conclusion of the film sees Frankie faced with a dilemma that the priest says could lead him to damnation. The way the film has been scripted makes the wrong choice seem right but it leaves room open for debate whether the choice made will lead to redemption or rather damnation. Million Dollar Baby portrays the aspect that maybe the most loving and right thing to do for someone else may result to one’s own damnation. This film is more thoughtful and less complacent compared to some of its detractors allege. A refined script, superlative performances and canny direction are some of the qualities that make this movie very compelling.
Depth and conflict is added into the story through the characters who have personal unresolved conflicts from their past. As much as Frankie is considered a brilliant coach, he is an overly cautious manager. He is haunted by injuries that occurred to boxers he has trained in the past and is chary of allowing the fighters he has trained from getting in the boxing ring with serious contenders. Maggie is troubled by her hillbilly roots and the fact that her family stay in the trailer park. Scrap is the least conflicted but he is quietly disappointed with how his career came to an abrupt end due to an eye injury. The supporting characters like Danger played by Jay Baruchel, is an inept wanna-be boxer and is always lingering around the gym but unfortunately does not have the drive, ambition and talent that Maggie has. He is practically a comic-relief caricature. “The Blue Bear” which is Billie’s nickname, played by Lucia Rijker is an opponent to be feared. She is a former prostitute and fights dirty.
Frankie has a troublesome relationship with his daughter whom she sends letters to and she sends them back unopened. At some point in the movie Maggie asks him about his personal life and he passes her on to another trainer but luckily takes her back and promises not to leave her again. The relationship with Maggie brings out the affectionate side and vulnerability in him. The voice over narration by Morgan Freeman speaks to the audience and lovers of the sport by telling details all round of what goes on in and out of the ring.
Maggie’s mother falls under the foreseeable and offensive class archetypes. She is an unsurprising burlesque of the welfare cheat. Her character does not challenge the audience but substantiates a regressive and definitely familiar narrative. She is the embodiment of a dominant cultural mythology of how poverty is perceived. The fact that she is lazy limits her from improving in life or getting ahead. It is her individual flaw rather than injustice from the system that brings her poverty. Even her family members are considered to be tacky. When Maggie is bedridden it is disturbing how the family focuses on her money and is not in any sense compassionate to her condition. Through her family’s one dimensional portrayal and her mother’s obese body, Maggie is depicted as an Angel in the film.
Through Maggie’s eyes, class is an issue to be conquered and something that she can prevail over. However disability is something that she cannot overcome. In the film it is depicted as a personal and corporeal defeat. The difference between what she can conquer and what she cannot overcome lies in individuality. Maggie triumphed over socio-economics through her own individual determination and diligence. As much as she was relying on Frankie to impart skills and train her, she always pulled her own weight and never took her trainer for granted. The transgressions of her family on the other hand show how they leech on her, and cheat to get welfare money. The spinal cord injury turned everything around and now Maggie has to rely on help and this is something she cannot stand. She has to rely on the machines, medicine and health care practitioners for assistance. Frankie has to pick Maggie up and put her in the wheelchair. Albeit the movie might seem like one of the many boxing films clichés it comprises of a whole lot more than boxing. It has a very deep setting and touches on a variety of themes.