144 Min | Biography – Drama – Sport | September 2005
IMDB Rating: 8.0
Director: Ron Howard
Starring: Russell Crowe, Renée Zellweger, Craig Bierko
Cinderella Man Review: If the great depression of the 1930s is a mystery to you, then Cinderella Man can fix that. The story, about the ups and downs in the career of a boxer, is uplifting and entertaining. However, what makes Cinderella Man more than that is its believable depiction of the great depression. Take, for example, the scene at the dock where Braddock, the boxer, waits with dozens of other men for the chance to work a stevedore job for the day. “We need ten,” shouts the boss. Then he points, and counts. Every eye is trying to meet his, trying to be picked. Not a gesture is out of place. This kind of verisimilitude comes only from fanatics for accuracy. Look at drector Ron Howard and male lead Russell Crowe. Ron Howard also directed Cocoon, Willow, and for the Academy Award for Best Director and the Academy Award for Best Picture, A Beautiful Mind, which also starred Crowe. He drove the set designers, the costumers, the cast, and the extras, with telling effect. Nothing is over-acted.
Crowe trained for Cinderella Man using the same, low-tech methods used in boxing in the 1930s. He also studied film footage of Braddock to master the real fighter’s characteristic gestures. In the ring, said one of Crowe’s trainers, he successfully duplicated Braddock’s moves, his footwork, and his style. The boxing drives the story along. It is bloody, fierce boxing. Some people may find the fight scenes objectionably violent. Crowe broke his hand in training. Real fighters played most of his opponents. Sometimes they forgot they were supposed to fake punches, leading to the spilling of real blood, which was left in the final version. Crowe also landed a few real punches by mistake.
The boxing, however, is overshadowed by life during the depression. Millions were out of work. Milk was delivered in bottles, by a milk man. People left their empty milk bottles out at night so the milk man could collect them early the next morning, and replace them with full bottles. When the dairy could no longer extend a family’s credit, the empty bottles were still there in the morning with a note of apology stuck in the mouth of one of them. During the depression, there was no unemployment insurance, no Medicaid, and no Social Security. There was the dole, but it was new, humiliating, and under funded. You cold not get enough to keep your family fed and clothed. Braddock is shown waiting for and getting his dole, another moving scene in which everyone is stoically in character. Cinderella Man also accurately depicts the huge gap that opened between the masses of the poor, and the few, fabulously wealthy. Cinderella Man is a very entertaining film. However, if you are just beginning to study the great depression, it can be a great head start.