Cinderella Man (2005)

Genre(s): Biographical / Drama / Sports
Universal || PG13 - 144 minutes || June 3, 2005
Reviewer: Elyusha Vafaeisefat || Posted On: 2005-05-25

.:: F I L M ::.

Director: Ron Howard
Writer(s): Cliff Hollingsworth (story), Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman (screenplay)
Cast: Russell Crowe, Renee Zellweger, Paul Giamatti, Craig Bierko, Paddy Considine, Bruce McGill

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Cinderella Man has long been one of my most anticiapted film of this year. Mainly because Russell Crowe is my favorite actor and because I was a big fan of A Beautiful Mind. After seeing it, I would definitely say it's my favorite film of the year so far. It reminded me of classic Hollywood filmmaking when people actually cared about telling stories on film. It's also nice to see a summer film that isn't drenched in special effects either. I know a lot of people are going to compare this to A Beautiful Mind, which is understandable, but they really aren't that close to one another. ABM was more emotional and psychological. Cinderella Man is more of an audience involved film that is much more of a crowd pleaser. People are also going to try and compare this to Seabiscuit, which is understandable too, but I thought this movie was much much better. The problem with Seabiscuit is that it felt distant and the fact that it seemed to drag too much in many places. In Cinderella Man, it is much more personal because you follow Braddock and his family through the depression. You see a man go from riches to rags beceause of the depression and the film captures this beautifully. I think Richard Roeper may have said it best about this film so far. He said the first half is a family oriented film about survival, and the second half is a boxing movie, which is very true.

Ron Howard has definitely matured as a director too. The boxing sequences are handeled greatly. Especially the final sequence between Max Baer and James Braddock. I can't say that Howard does anything original in terms of the filming, but he still manages to pull off the scenes very well. I would rank the boxing sequences with Ali and Raging Bull as three of the best I've ever seen. Like Ali and Raging Bull, you feel like you're in the ring with Braddock and you feel every blow he takes. Raging Bull's sequences are still my favorite by far, but I like Howard's work on this film too. The film itself if shot beautifully by cinematographer Salvatore Totino. He captures the gritty look of the depression very well.

From a technical standpoint, the film is amazing. The score from Thomas Newman is very subtle, but fits the film perfectly, just like James Horner's work in ABM. It reminded me a lot of Newman's scores for Road to Perdition and The Shawshank Redemption. He also incorporates old fashioned music from the time period like he did in Road to Perdition and Shawshank too. The art direction, costume design and editing were all done exceptionally well too.

In terms of acting, the entire cast does a great job. Russell Crowe is great as usual. His ability to morph himself into any role he does is the main reason why he is easily my favorite actor working in film today. Whether he is a Captain on a ship, a gladiator, a cop, a nazi skinhead, a hockey player, a 55 year old tobacco whistle blower, or a schizophrenic mathematician, Crowe always seems to become his characters through dedication. At this point, anyone who doesn't think Crowe is one of the best actors working in film today has to be blind. He carries the film beautifully on his shoulders and takes the film up 3 or 4 notches because of his dedication to the part. He is an actor who is truly an artist to me. He only picks scripts that he will dedicate himself 110% too, which is why he doesn't make 18 films per year like some other actors do. That is the main reason why he is so great in every film he is in. I also loved Paul Giamatti's performance as Joe. His work is great and is definitely nomination worthy especially after his snub for Sideways. He and Crowe have great chemistry between them. Renée Zellweger also gives a solid performance as Mae. She doesn't have much to work with (she's the typical supporting wife), but still does a good job. Nevertheless, she and Crowe have a great relationship with one another which makes the story believable. I also liked the performances from the three young children, Bruce McGill, Chuck Shamata, Craig Bierko and a small part from Paddy Considine as well. Overall, it is a great ensemble piece of acting. Everyone contributes greatly to the film.

In the end, Cinderella Man is just great to watch and like ABM, the story is very inspirational. I can't really comment on the rest of the reactions from the audience because it was the premiere and naturally they all went crazy for it. I'll definitely see it again to see what other film goers think. But if I had to guess, I would say that this film will be a great crowd pleaser. I thoroughly enjoyed the film from beginning to end. Personally, I am not sure if I like it more than ABM yet. I'll have to see it a few more times before I can make a final judgment. If you know the story of James Braddock, are a fan of Russell Crowe or just like great and well told stories you'll definitely enjoy the film.