Million Dollar Baby
By now a lot of you have probably seen Clint Eastwood's
film, Million Dollar Baby, and probably read a few reviews of it as
well, but allow me to give my two cents on it. Besides the fact that it
is an extremely well directed and produced film, and that it has a superstar
cast, this is a great film that will not be soon forgotten; and I mean long
past the resurgence it will have when the DVD releases. This film will be
considered a classic, if not already, for one main reason, it asks a question
about life, the meaning of it and who is in control.
V for Vendetta by Alan Moore
I don't wish to compare this film with such literature classics as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's Faust or Elective Affinities, or Herman Melville's Billy Budd, however, like those classics Baby presents a question concerned with the value of life in the face of dilemmas.
Now some of the 'dilemmas' are somewhat milder than others in the film, and certainly not of the degree that is seen in Melville's Billy Budd, however the major one is similar. In Billy Budd, the Captain is faced with the decision of whether or not he should enforce the law of capital punishment on a well-liked, warm-hearted man (Billy) whose explicitly antagonized fist took the life of an immoral, hazing officer whom often radiated a strange voyeuristic persona. The entire ship knew that Billy was innocent, however law is law, and to follow it means he must hang. The Captain was a decorated officer because of his integrity. Though the question of life and the value of it are presented in an entirely different way in this novella, I can't help but be reminded of it in terms of Billy and the Captain when reflecting on my thoughts about Baby. Fankie (Eastwood) is presented with a value of life at the end of the film, but really only after he has found a meaning and purpose to his life, which he seemingly lost through the course of it.
Early in the film, Frankie shadows the priest of his local church as he badgers him with ignorant questions of God and life. The annoyed priest first refuses to answer the questions due to his feelings of de-ja-vu inflicted frustration (we learn that this happens all of the time), but then quickly answers as to end the conversation. The importance of this scene unfolds as the film continues and Frankie's character is revealed. This scene attempts to show the importance of the priest whether he is respected, or gives respect.
Million Dollar BabyWe learn that Frankie doesn't have a value for life, either by never knowing a value for it or because he has chosen to not see any value in light of his past, though the latter is the more probable scenario. His daughter doesn't speak with him, and though he writes letters to her, we are led to believe that he only does that because of the priest; he shows little care when the letters have been marked 'return to sender'. Frankie also doesn't take chances, and this is very clear because the narrator shoves it down our throats. The narrator, Eddie (Morgan Friedman), was a fighter who was trained by Frankie, however, his last fight left him with a permanent injury and kept him out of a title shot, which was supposed to be his next fight. Frankie carries great guilt because of it. Nevertheless he is reluctant to put his fighters in the ring of a title fight if he isn't 200% sure of their victory. His eight-year nurtured fighter leaves him because of this. All of this gives significance to Frankie's number one rule, "always protect yourself."
The significance of this rule isn't that he carves it into Maggie's (Hilary Swank) chest yet she ends up paralyzed because she didn't 'always protect herself', it's that he was unable to transpose the meaning of it into his own life outside of the ring.
Maggie soon filled the hole in his heart with her allegiance as a fighter and the young woman (daughter) in his life that he didn't have. Through her he realized the value of his daughter, but chose Maggie not his daughter. Maggie also pledged her allegiance to him by refusing to be managed by anyone else, even after she became a star.
It was at the very moment in the title fight when Maggie breaks her neck that we realize she wasn't the only one who didn't protect them self; Frankie didn't protect himself either, for he became heart broken that that happened to Maggie and he made every attempt he could to get her back-or at least healed. Frankie now sees the value of life and its meaning, but his trial is not over yet, for he knows not the meaning of life; only sees it.
The Story of Maggie's father and his dog is the backbone to the story. He and the dog were best friends, but after a rear leg injury the dog had to drag its hindquarters to get around. Maggie remembers waving to the both of them one day when they were going to the forest in dads pickup truck, but it wasn't until her father returned home without his dog that she noticed the shovel in the back. At that moment she realized that her father had to kill his dog because it was the right thing to do. It was right because it would have been selfish of him not to with the dog it its condition, no matter how much he loved it. Maggie presented Frankie with the same situation.
Million Dollar BabyBecause of Maggie, Frankie has now seen a value for life that he had forgotten, but just as he realizes his appreciation for this life (and hers as the fighter/daughter that he never had), Maggie asks him to do something that is impossible for one with an appreciation for life to do, kill her. At that very moment of his realization of appreciation for life, he is forced to commit an act that would forever remove it. We are shown this by him not valuing the life he built and further nurturing the relationships that he had (like the one with Eddie) after he grants Maggie's wish, but walking away from it all, never to return. (Almost Aristotelian isn't it.)
Frankie sought counsel in his priest about whether he should fulfill Maggie's request, the father replied, "Frankie, you have been coming to church everyday for 25 years. No one comes to church that much unless they seek forgiveness for something so great that they don't think forgiveness is capable of being given. Whatever you have done in this life means nothing compared to this, if you do this (not the right thing), you can never receive forgiveness." In the next scene, Frankie disconnects Maggie's oxygen tube and gives her a single shot of adrenaline.
Frankie was forced to rid himself of the only person that showed him the value of life, but in that he found the forgiveness he sought and the meaning of God and 'a' life.
"Always protect yourself," right or wrong? Which one do you choose?
Check out the Million Dollar Baby Movie Page