An early scene in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby recommends that the film has more on its mind than the skillfully crafted boxing-movie clichÃ©s that fill the majority of the very first two acts. Frankie Dunn (Eastwood), a grizzled veteran boxing coach and owner of a gym, is leaving weekday Mass at St. Mark’s Church, where we discover he has been a day-to-day communicant for decades, and is pestering the priest for explanation of the teaching of the Trinity. With maybe less piety or theological precision than pastoral insight, Fr. Horvak (Brian O’Byrne) impatiently dismiss Frankie’s questions, appropriately picking up that they are essentially a sort of evade, which what Frankie actually needs is not catechism classes, but to make peace with God.
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By the film’s end, Frankie is faced with an option that the priest says might result in his damnation. The film makes the wrong option seem right. However it leaves it an open question, I believe, whether making that choice causes redemption or damnation. Million Dollar Baby recommends, perhaps, that the right and most caring thing to do for another person may involve one’s own damnation. This is very far from great way of looking at things. However it recommends a movie that is less complacent, more thoughtful, less like smug propaganda than some of its detractors allege.
The story gets added depth and dispute from the characters with unsolved issues from their pasts. Frankie is an able coach but an overly careful supervisor, haunted by injuries to fighters he’s handled in the past and chary of letting his fighters challenge themselves versus severe competitors. Maggie is owned in part by a need to get away the trailer-park hillbilly roots of her unpleasant family. Even Scrap, though the least clashed of the main characters, is quietly dissatisfied over the abrupt ending of his profession after an eye injury. (One of these problems settles in a crowd-pleasing moment and a one-liner that is only a number, however brings a smile to one’s face.).
But Swank owns the film, and it’s her earnest, fiery, gungo-ho performance that makes Million Dollar Baby as engaging as it is. One can’t help rooting for her, though this introduces a remarkable issue. Few individuals would want to spend a film seeing Hilary Swank getting brutalized in the ring, or additionally brutalizing other women. To minimize this trouble, the movie skillfully turns Maggie into a one-punch marvel with a disturbing practice of securing her opponents in the very first round, making it as humane and clean as possible. That’s not to say the movie prevents recoiling minutes entirely– on the contrary– however on the entire Maggie’s profession is not identified by long, intense battles or damaged and bleeding faces, because who would wish to see Hilary Swank go through that?
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Maggie is now restricted to a hospital bed with a feeding and a ventilator tube. Frankie intially chooses not to deal with the permanence of her condition, and we see him on the phone yelling at professionals and surgeons who tell him they cannot fix her. (Oddly, we do not see him on the phone screaming at boxing authorities or district lawyers about the Blue Bear’s crippling sneak attack; it’s not surprising that the film has no additional interest in her character, but I have a tough time believing that Frankie wouldn’t either.).
He stands by her in misery as she faces the crushing embarrassment of facing her atrocious household and the lawyer they give her health center bed. He will never ever coach her once again, Frankie devoted to stand by her in any method he can. He even starts to draw up strategies for her to resume a productive life– she can get a special breath-activated wheelchair, she can take classes, she can …
No. Maggie wishes to die. She has tasted magnificence, she has lost everything, and she wishes to die now with the sweet appreciate of victory still fresh on her lips. She does not desire this final defeat to grow to become the entire of her life, her days as a champion a quick, distant memory. And she wants Frankie to assist her die.
While Frankie is agonizing over Maggie’s request, he goes back to Fr. Horvak, who compassionately observes that Frankie clearly has things in his past he can’t forgive himself, and informs him clearly that, paradise and hell aside, if he goes through with Maggie’s demand he will lose himself someplace so deep he’ll never discover himself once again. As typical, the priest’s viewpoint isn’t really quite right (not all day-to-day communicants struggle with self-imposed guilt, and no matter what options individuals make and how profoundly they are lost, while they live there is constantly the possibility that they will be found again). And it’s regrettable that the priest picked to concentrate on Frankie and how he should not do it, just as if it were everything about him, instead of concentrating on Maggie and why, despite her sensations, it would be wrong to eliminate her.
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Fr. Horvak appears meant to be a rather understanding figure. Still, it seems considerable that there is no depth to his responses. The burden of his character appears to be this: The priests aren’t bad guys, however they just understand ways to mouth the celebration line, they do not like concerns, and you aren’t getting any deeper responses from them, not to mention any practical advice for living in the genuine world.
It also appears to me that, in some way, the very type and structure of the story is biased toward the act of euthanasia, inasmuch as the shape of the drama requires a climax that somehow resolves the conflict in a definitive or definitive method. When Maggie is paralyzed, as a human being she might have a variety of alternatives, however as a character in the Rocky-style motion picture we’ve been enjoying till now, she can just wind up two ways: Either there will be an amazing recovery, or she will pass away. No other resolution will please the significant tension produced by her paralysis.
The movie therefore plays on the gap in between what we may back in genuine life as ethical persons and exactly what we will accept as an acceptable resolution of the storyline as moviegoers. If Maggie were our buddy, our daughter, our trainee, we might desire her to live, however watching her as a character in a film of this sort we wouldn’t find it pleasing if the film ended with her merely starting the tough procedure of Christopher Reeve lifelong treatment. Seeing the film, I knew this significant effect dealing with me: Looking at Maggie in the bed on ventilation, I felt the problem of leaving her in basically that exact same condition by the end of the film, although in reality that’s the choice I would desire her to make.
Million Dollar Baby is probably too nuanced to dismiss as simple pro-euthanasia propaganda. As a well-crafted and effective piece of popular art that takes a eventually affirmative and profoundly sympathetic view of euthanasia, it is deeply troubling and possibly gravely damaging artifact of the culture of death. In a culture where currently quality of life is valued more than life itself and incapacitation is considered a fate worse than death, it may not be excessive to state that people might pass away in part as a direct outcome of this movie and others like it.
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