Cinderella Man

This season is overflowing with nostalgic films. Screenwriters aren’t producing anything unique or thoughtful lately. I imagine they are sitting at their laptops scanning old scripts and biographies, thinking the easiest and most profitable screenplay will be one that’s already been made or requires little thought and imagination; “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (summer 2005) and “Star Wars: Episode III” (2005, opening May 19) are proof. Director Ron Howard joins the party with “Cinderella Man”, a historical tale with a happy ending that almost leaves you snoring.

It’s The Great Depression, but it looks more like Auschwitz. James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) is a former champion boxer who goes from riches to rags as the U.S. dives deeper into poverty. He labors in harsh conditions to keep his family of five above ground, but his friend and manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti), pulls some strings to get him back in the ring. Gloves on and dukes up, Braddock takes the ring like a superhero not only for his family, but for all of New Jersey and maybe the entire U.S. Of course, the story is neatly tied up in a velvet ribbon, securing all worries and tribulations; Howard rarely directs a film that doesn’t give the audience that warm, cuddly, disgorging feeling.

The story of James J. Braddock, All-American boxer, can be read in books. How about making a story about someone or something you can’t read in a book or rent an earlier version on DVD! This film has a great scene of “Hooverville”, a shanty town in Central Park, that is overflowing with more interesting people and stories than a historical figure with a loving, traditional family that is rich, then poor, then rich again; a man that gets everything he wants and needs in the end isn’t as interesting as the man who has nothing except interesting friends and fantastic dreams.

The screenwriter, Cliff Hollingsworth, turned in an incomplete script and it’s Howard’s fault for directing it. The beginning of the film is so utterly boring and drawn out with bald exposition and meaningless dialog, it won’t be surprising if some people get up and leave before the film really starts. The story lacks an exciting inciting incident to power punch the audience into an interesting film; it only proves its strength in the end, but by then it’s too late. The film turns into an ESPN boxing match where the audience is cheering for its favorite team instead of rooting for a downtrodden hero, and the reason why no one’s rooting for the character is because he’s non-dimensional just like all the other characters.

It’s a shame that such a good cast was wasted on such a mediocre film. Rene Zellweger and Crowe have good onscreen chemistry, and Ariel Waller plays their adorable little girl. Biographical films enlighten an audience to one’s entire life; however, Braddock’s story is translated as flat as a piece of paper you’d read from his autobiography.


Anonymous teefmon said...

brilliant writing risa!

10:21 AM  

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