I'm not a fan of boxing. Even during the Olympics, when for three weeks I'm suddenly a sports fanatic, I don't watch the boxing matches. Still, the sport does capture many people's imaginations and so quite a lot of movies have been made around boxing. Cinderella Man is one of those and as it combines boxing with an interesting historical time period, I decided to give this movie a try. And I'm certainly not sorry I did.
It's the height of the Great Depression and Jim Braddock (Russel Crowe), ex-prizefighter is as down on his luck as the rest of the country seems to be. When his beloved family is in danger of loosing their house, Braddock fights for one last change in the boxing ring. Nobody gave him even the benefit of the doubt, he was simply hired as 'meat' to make an up-and-coming champion feel good about himself. But fueled by more than just competition, Braddock keeps winning matches and is eventually chosen to do the unthinkable, go up against the World Champion, who has supposedly killed two man in the ring before.
Cinderella Man tells a great story based on true events. The movie gives an convincing picture of the disturbing reality of the Great Depression. By showing us in the beginning of the movie how the Braddock family used to live before 1929, it really brings home the way their life has changed as does the glimpses we see of Mae Braddock (Renée Zelwegger) desperately trying to keep her children warm, fed and clothed. The movie also shows subtly that the Depression affected everyone's life, even the seemingly rich, in one very poignant scene. I loved how Cinderella Man showcased the really strong relationship between Jim Braddock and his wife and children. Though I'm not a huge fan of Renée Zelwegger, I liked her portrayal of Mae Braddock in this movie. She played this strong female role with zeal and there was warmth and chemistry in her interaction with Crowe's Jim.
The boxing scenes were quite long and intense, especially the last (and most important) match was shown in great detail. I understand this is the staple of sports movies, to show the last, climatic match lengthy, but I did not care much for it. This is of course just personal preference and I must admit to being really impressed by the convincing acting of Russel Crowe in these difficult scenes. I also liked Paul Giamatti in his role of Braddock's manager Joe Gould. But is it just me or does Giamatti seem to be forever stuck in the role of the supporting character?
In a way, Cinderella Man is very similar to Seabiscuit, a personal favourite. In both movies, an underdog (be it a horse or a man), during the Great Depression, unexpectedly excels in a sport and becomes a symbol of hope for the working class people of America. While I will always love Seabiscuit better (really, the choice between boxing and horseracing is an easy one!), Cinderella Man is a great movie in it's own right and definitely one I recommend.
What to know: The movie is rated PG-13 for intense boxing violence and language.