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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.53%
Worth A Look56.62%
Average: 2.94%
Pretty Bad: 15.44%
Total Crap: 1.47%

13 reviews, 58 user ratings

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Cinderella Man
[] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

"Punch-drunk love story"
4 stars

One scene finally won me over in Cinderella Man. Depression-era boxer James J. Braddock (Russell Crowe) is at his lowest ebb. The Boxing commission has revoked his licence and he’s forced to beg, cap in hand, for enough money to support his children. En route to this humiliation, Braddock walks past a posh hotel, a sign that not everyone in 1934 America was struggling as he was. Watching this man fighting to maintain his dignity, knowing that he is about to sacrifice his last vestiges of pride, is heartbreaking and another tribute to Crowe’s fearlessness as an actor.

It marks a turning point for Ron Howard’s movie, which, until this point, seems bereft of real emotion. Even when the Depression hits home hard, Braddock and his plucky wife Mae (Renée Zellweger) are like a role model for perfect matrimony. They’re so cuddly and warm-hearted in the face of adversity, I shrunk back for fear they were going to reach out of the screen and give me a big hug. Cartoonish moments in Cliff Hollingsworth and Akiva Goldsman’s script only add to the phoniness. I was reminded of Charlie Chaplin’s mother slapping down dinner in Richard Attenborough’s disastrous Chaplin, to cries of “not fish-head soup again!” from the kids.

Cinderella Man opens in 1928 with Jim “Pride of New Jersey” Braddock at the height of his boxing powers, defeating another opponent in Madison Square Garden. We establish Mae’s dislike for her husband’s line of work before shifting abruptly to 1933, four years into the Depression. Salvatore Totino’s camerawork starts getting shaky and the murky brown production design of Wynn Thomas and threadbare costumes of Daniel Orlandi leave us in no doubt that Braddock’s life has taken a turn for the worse. After losing everything in the Stock Market crash and suffering an unlucky run of injuries, he barely manages to get work on the docks. It’s a tribute to Braddock’s determination, Mae’s support and the faith of his manager, Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti), that Braddock wins the opportunity for a comeback fight and, against all odds, resurrects his boxing career.

Braddock earned the moniker “Cinderella Man” from Damon Runyon, who considered Braddock’s life narrative a “human interest story” without comparison in the history of boxing. It’s a crowd-pleaser par excellence, despite the material having more than a whiff of familiarity. Like the racehorse Seabiscuit (immortalised in Gary Ross’s 2003 Seabiscuit), the “Cinderella Man” who bounced back from defeat became a metaphor for the hopes and dreams of poor Americans. Braddock’s story has everything a filmmaker would want for an inspirational movie, and Howard is content to allow the key moments to emerge from the material, rather than tack on additional flourishes. The fictional composite everyman, a bitter dockworker played by Paddy Considine, is an exception. But as his role is to intensify, not weaken, Howard’s depiction of the hardships of the era, it’s not a fatal exception.

Howard directs the boxing scenes with intensity and variety, and achieves added veracity by casting current boxing stars (Art Binkowski, Troy Amos-Ross, Mark Simmons) as Crowe’s opponents. As well as accomplished playing from Crowe and Zellweger, there’s a sharp turn from Bruce McGill as a boxing promoter and energetic work from Paul Giamatti as Braddock’s manager. Broadway star Craig Bierko brings a carnal elegance and pronounced swagger to Braddock’s glamour opponent, Max Baer, but the filmmakers lose points for demonising an historical figure for the sake of simplifying their story. Still, for lack of subtlety, it doesn’t even approach the evil lesbian Kraut who malevolently fells the saintly Hilary Swank in Million Dollar Baby.

Cinderella Man lacks the tightness of Clint Eastwood’s boxing movie. It’s a different beast entirely, and boasts the handsome cinematography and lovingly recreated period design beloved of well-intentioned epics. Still, it’s tougher than you’d expect from a sentimentally inclined filmmaker like Ron Howard. Cliff Hollingsworth’s story has a beautiful arc and is brought to life by intelligent and seasoned performers. Cinderella Man is a real-life fairy tale that’s near impossible to resist.

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originally posted: 10/25/05 13:26:50
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User Comments

6/22/10 Monday Morning Like Seabiscuit with two legs. Love the uplifting story - we need it now. 4 stars
12/19/09 Jeff Wilder Rocky with better acting. Million Dollar Baby/Raging Bull it's not. Still good. 4 stars
6/29/09 budo True story--well done 5 stars
9/03/08 Shaun Wallner Great film!! 5 stars
3/02/08 Pamela White Integrity and faith, hard road to travel 5 stars
1/02/08 Matt Great performance from Crowe and superbly filmed fight scenes. Excellent movie. 4 stars
12/10/07 mr.mike worth seeing , Crowe can play anything 4 stars
12/09/07 R.W.Welch Realistic depiction. Standout perf by Giamatti. 4 stars
12/22/06 Thomas Wynn Nice story, and good acting. 4 stars
11/24/06 Charlene Javier Crowe was brilliant as usual. 4 stars
11/24/06 Patsyc I really enjoyed this movie. Although I am not a boxing fan, I really liked the story. 4 stars
11/23/06 Tiffany Losco saw this with my parents, it was awesome. I really liked the story. 5 stars
11/18/06 annie The movie was good, Renee was great. 4 stars
10/06/06 Kara I can re-watch this over and over again, riviting 5 stars
9/18/06 daveyt very enjoyable, though my blockbuster dvd was scratced to hell...! 4 stars
8/18/06 Tom Conroy I think Zellwinger did a great job. Her accent was the most authentic 5 stars
8/10/06 drydock54321 a bit long but good 4 stars
8/07/06 JenDenmark Good movie, would recommend it for a Sunday evening. 4 stars
7/11/06 David Cohen Missed getting 5 stars for its awful slur against Max Baer 4 stars
5/24/06 Anthony Feor Had depth but, it is just like Rocky 4 stars
5/18/06 Phil M. Aficionado Would be 5 stars if they hadn't "hokeyed" up Max Baer so extremely 4 stars
5/15/06 Diane P this was great, attention to detail for the era was astounding, all actors tremendous 5 stars
4/01/06 Nobody The best movie of the year. Why was it forgotten at the oscars? 5 stars
1/30/06 WiseMan Somthing was missing. All in all the movie was very Enjoyable 5 stars
1/05/06 Dan Great Movie! 5 stars
1/04/06 Piz true story and a winner. One of the greats of 2005 5 stars
12/18/05 ownerofdajoint Good boxing scenes but evades the truth on the causes of the Depression.Opey sells out! 4 stars
12/12/05 joseph taylor boring and violent. the script and movie far far below "rocky'. poor imitation of it. 2 stars
10/02/05 Jonathon Holmes good movie, but its no "Million Dollar Baby" 4 stars
9/29/05 JOrdan it was bad make a new movie! 1 stars
9/25/05 Renee Zellweger's best performance yet Hope she wins an Oscar and isn't taking a dump when it's presented! 5 stars
9/22/05 Fritz One of Howard's worst. Typical schmaltzy sports movie crap. 2 stars
9/01/05 Teh Gret one Prety Ghey 1 stars
8/28/05 Quigley russell crowe ruled the movie. why did it not make as much $? i loved this movie. oscars! 5 stars
8/26/05 Nobody True story, good boxing scenes, a hero you like rooting for, half-decent accents. 5 stars
8/25/05 Heather Purplethorne Quite interesting story of a human Seabiscuit 4 stars
8/11/05 George Seaberg Superb! I don't cry in a movie, but I did here. There's another similar story out there 5 stars
7/27/05 Tina Lawrimore Loved it! The best movie I have seen so far this yr. 5 stars
7/15/05 Lesle I forgot how much I hate boxing flicks 3 stars
7/11/05 Brian Feiler A movie with class and heart. Russell Crowe and Renee Zellweger should be oscar contenders 5 stars
7/05/05 rocky i thought this movie was awesome 5 stars
7/04/05 Naka Howard is a lucky hack. 2 stars
7/03/05 Melissa AWESOME movie. Russell Crowe (at least in his profession) can't make a mistake. A+ 5 stars
6/30/05 Ole Man Bourbon I wish they'd included the scene where R Crowe smashed the phone on the valet 4 stars
6/30/05 Quigley Great to have Ron Howard back. This movie is awesome, awesome, awesome. 5 stars
6/30/05 lindy03 Excellent 5 stars
6/21/05 ownerofdajoint crowe is incredible;this movie is almost as good as raging bul 5 stars
6/18/05 chris. Gee, I didn't see ANY of that coming... 3 stars
6/17/05 Wayne Engle Second coming of Frank Capra! A superb job! 5 stars
6/16/05 Mike V Damn good. Ron Howard didn't "Hollywood" it up TOO much 4 stars
6/08/05 Jim Marmino Where is the creativity, just another Rock movie or Somebody Up There Likes Me. 3 stars
6/07/05 Ole Man Bourbon Decent, but oh so predictable. Definitely one of those that wrote itself (or maybe a puter 3 stars
6/05/05 PAUL BRUNS If you didn't already know the outcome, great 5 stars
6/05/05 J MAN good not great. If this is the best film of the year, were in trouble... 4 stars
6/04/05 jcjs wonderful 5 stars
6/04/05 Koitus Great story. Giamatti should get Supporting Oscar for this one! Well set-up ending. 5 stars
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  03-Jun-2005 (PG-13)
  DVD: 06-Dec-2005



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