There are many kinds of strengths. There’s physical strength—like the boxer who has never been knocked out. There’s emotional strength—like the mother who stays strong for her children, never letting them see her cry. There’s strength of conviction—like the friend who just knows that his friend has what it takes and will help him rise back to the top. Pretty much any kind of strength you can name, you’ll find in Cinderella Man.
Cinderella Man features Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger in the true story of boxer James J. Braddock and his rise to glory after being kicked to the bottom by the Great Depression. Prior to the Great Depression, Braddock made it to the #2 position in the boxing world. Then, his success dwindled further and further until four years into the Depression, when he needed the boxing money to support his family, he broke his hand and was deemed washed up and formerly kicked out of the sport by the Boxing Commission. Later, his former manager comes to him with a one fight only opportunity when a big name boxer’s opponent pulled out at the last minute and no one was willing to fight him without time to train. The purse was set at $250 and no one expected Braddock to beat this guy. But this is not the same Braddock as before. You almost feel sorry for the other fighter, who is unaware of what he represents as Braddock, with only a biteful of hash in his stomach beats the tar out of the fat and happy young man. Braddock is beating up the Depression. One fight turns to two and two to three and finally Braddock finds himself back in the sport, fighting to support his family, fighting for his second chance, and fighting for all the little people who the Great Depression knocked down. He makes it to the title fight, up against a boxer who has killed two men in the ring. The press is all over it, telling the story and calling Braddock the “Cinderella Man.”
My first thought upon seeing the preview and hearing the title Cinderella Man mirrored the comment made by Braddock’s wife (Zellweger) the first time she heard the nickname, “Sounds kind of girly.” Now, there’s nothing girly about boxing, but my best friend and I both found ourselves on the edge of our seats, yelling at the screen, and throwing punches like we were Lilia Ali. This movie is exhilarating. We both left the theater giddy from the experience.
From a technical standpoint, there is nothing special about this movie. It does not use any new techniques or original storytelling devices. It is a straightforward biography. BUT, everything else about this movie sparkles. The acting is magnificent, surely some Best Actor (Crowe), Actress (Zellweger), or Supporting Actor (Paul Giamatti as Braddock’s manager) nominations are due.
The story is amazing. The symbolism throughout is beautiful. The fact that it is true makes it even better. This was a superb project for director Ron Howard. I have never wanted the “good guy” to win so badly. Looking around the theater, I noticed that my friend and I were not the only ones on the edge of our seats. The story is compelling, engrossing, and wonderful. It’s a big year for boxing movies, and this one is a knock out.