Director: Ron Howard (Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, Cocoon)
Writer: Cliff Hollingsworth
Producers: Brian Grazer, Ron Howard, Penny Marshall
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti
read my spoiler disclaimer
So here's the deal: every film ever made from now on should have Paul Giamatti woven somewhere into the fabric of the film; if not being the star player altogether. He's funny, dramatic, unpredictable, lovable, deplorable and, best of all, "in the moment" in every one of his scenes. If I may make a bold prediction, he will garner a best supporting actor nomination for this role (***UPDATE - he WAS nominated! - though he lost the award to Clooney of "Syriana." Absolute crap!). He is half of why this movie is as good as it gets. The other half would be Ron Howard's knack of finding great stories to put to film and doing it very well.
Supposedly a true story, although I cannot attest to its factualness, Cinderella Man takes place in the midst of our great depression in the 30's. Howard puts us in this world magically; not that I would know from experience. The detail is exquisite; from the original Madison Square Garden Bowl to the Hoovervilles, to the prop pieces, back alley neighborhoods and costumes. It is perfect in every way.
The story is of James Braddock; an up and coming boxer who suddenly feels the stab of the depression as his career slowly sinks. The story is mostly about how he, his wife and three children try to survive the harsh reality of those times. But it is also a "Rocky" type come-back story of the century. The story is very inspirational and may bring a tear to some of the softer hearts out there.
The fighting scenes are, besides Paul Giamatti, what keep the story rolling. Not that the working-man family parts are slow or bad, its just got some very uneven pacing. One minute there's an action packed fight, then it's twenty minutes of quiet family time feeling sorry for each other. Then it's off to the ring again. There are a few scenes that could've been cut and added to the special features section on the DVD. Scenes that were completely unnecessary and dragged out the film. But even the slower scenes were great.
Whenever somebody mentions boxing and movie in the same sentence, Sylvester Stallone always is and will be the first thing that pops into my head. But Rocky ain't got nothing on the brutality of the fights in this film...not bloody (although there is some of that), just brutal. Very realistic with fantastic editing make it hard to watch during a couple of...shots. Don't be surprised if you catch yourself ducking and weaving slightly, in an effort to avoid some punches. One of the best shots in the film is when one boxer gets hit in the ribs, Howard spliced in about 3 single frames of the boxer's ribs as they would appear on an x-ray as they bend and crack. It is absolutely the coolest shot I have ever seen in a fight scene, and it is only about one third of a second long.
The acting is superb. Crowe jumps into the role with both feet (or fists in this case) from the get-go. Although I don't put him in my top ten as everyone else seems to do, he is unmistakeably one of the best in Hollywood today and some of his scenes were nothing short of magic. Throw in Renee Zellwegger (she hasn't won an Oscar and been nominatesd 3 times for nothing) and the aforementioned Giamatti and Ron Howard should have a blockbuster on his hands (and yes, Clint Howard of course makes an appearance).
But something has gone wrong. Reviews are great, audiences love it, I love it, it's got big stars and a powerful story and to top it off, Americans love the sports underdog story. But it's not making any money compared to the $88 million it cost to make. Why? Because audiences don't want drama in the summer. They want Darth Vader and Batman. Hopefully word of mouth will get around a little on this film and it will be re-released sometime in the fall. I've gotten really lucky this summer and have seen a lot of fun films, but this is the first really well done film I have seen and I guarantee it will get more than a couple Oscar nods. Trust me. See this one soon and you will be one of the lucky few who enjoyed it in the theater while half of America slept through "The Fantastic Four." "Cinderella Man" packs a real whallop!
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Here's what all the other critics thought about the film