Making the Grades
This film contains adult themes that are not addressed in the publicity associated with the movie. In order to provide parents with a clear understanding of what this movie contains, we have revealed "surprise" plot elements in our review.
In Million Dollar Baby, Clint Eastwood takes on the task of telling a story from both sides of the camera. It's a double-duty role Eastwood has tackled before and he manages to pull it off with an artistic finesse that has already garnered several award nominations as well as Oscar buzz for the film and its actors.
However don't be fooled by the film's trailers. Boxing is only the backdrop used to address controversial subjects faced by the painfully scarred characters.
Eastwood plays Frankie Dunn, the gritty owner of a boxing club. Over the years he has coached notable contenders. Hilary Swank is the wanna-be boxer named Maggie Fitzgerald who wants his help to train for a championship. Both of them are battered before they even step between the ropes.
Frankie battles with remorse over an estranged daughter. She wants nothing to do with him and even twenty-three years of almost daily Mass can't erase his guilt. Instead it has made him bitter and distant with everyone including the club's long time caretaker, Scrap (Morgan Freeman).
Maggie's wounds come from an abusive Southern family. She has managed to escape their swings by moving to L.A. and scrimping out a living as a waitress. But both her mother (Margo Martindale) and sister (Riki Lindhome) still have the gifted fighter in an emotionally bruising headlock. Maggie's only way to heal is by throwing herself into boxing.
Caught up in his own worries, Frankie is initially unimpressed and even annoyed when Maggie shows up at his gym. Already in her mid-30s, he thinks it is ludicrous for this "girly" to pursue her dream. But when the gruff trainer finally agrees to her request, the aging athlete's meteoric rise in the ring seems inevitable.
Then an unexpected punch turns this pugilist tale on its ear and raises a number of concerns parents may want to know about before buying tickets for this highly-touted match.
After experiencing life-altering wounds, a former fighter plunges into a deep depression and attempts suicide. While this mindset may be understandable in the circumstances, the film fails to give attention to the indomitable spirit of the contender who has already faced difficult challenges. Likewise, Frankie coaches a "nobody" into a world-class boxer in 18 months, but the script falls short by not allowing the obviously influential coach to show the same fortitude in helping the debilitated athlete.
Rather the movie is carefully crafted to justify the option of euthanasia and doesn't acknowledge the unavoidable consequences of this choice. In addition to these ethical dilemmas, families will find graphic depictions of other boxing injuries, one use of the sexual expletive, numerous profanities and some sexually charged discussions between the fighters.
Looking for personal redemption in the boxing ring, Maggie shows an unconquerable spirit. Too bad this film doesn't stay focused on this woman's strengths instead of becoming a sentimental advocacy piece about the question of assisted suicide.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about Million Dollar Baby.
What kind of abuse did Maggie suffer at the hands of her family? How did she deal with it? What attempts at reconciliation were made? What events in Maggie’s life colored her attitude toward life and death? Do you agree with how she felt?
At the end of this movie, there are obvious consequences for a man’s actions that have been omitted. Does this creative decision reveal the writer’s bias toward assisted suicide?