“Cinderella Man” tells the redemptive story of depression-era boxer James J. Braddock. This story works on two levels. First, Braddock as a man who struggles to provide from his family when The Great Depression limits the number of jobs for working class men. Second, Braddock as a symbol of hope for all Americans who are struggling to get by. Director Ron Howard brings both of these levels together in this period drama. There has been criticism that Max Baer is inaccurately depicted as vicious bully. While he was known to be a gentleman outside of the ring, this depiction personifies the brute that he became inside of the ring; moreover, Baer is an important part of the film’s symbolism as the American people must “get into the ring” with their hardships if they want to reverse their desperate situations. The period costumes and atmosphere are an important part of this film but the key to its success is Russell Crowe. He provides the emotions, expression, and believable boxing abilities necessary to connect with the audience as both a father and as a boxer. The other X-factor of this film is Paul Giamatti whose portrayal of manager Joe Gould was rightfully rewarded with an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actor. Giamatti is one of my favorite character actors and he brings an incredible amount of heart to this performance. I was rather unimpressed with Renée Zellweger as Braddock’s wife. She was an Oscar nominee three years in a row (including a win for “Cold Mountain”) so I always have high expectations, but I found that most of the emotion in her scenes were a result of Crowe’s acting and not her own. Everything is tied together by a beautiful score by Thomas Newman that keeps us focused on the heart of the story. This heart of the story is the hopes and dreams of America which seemingly all lay on the success of Braddock, though it also works as a great boxing film. The scenes are cut in a fast-paced yet easy to follow manner, which probably accounts of the Best Editing Oscar nomination. “Cinderella Man” is a solid picture that will please a diverse grouping of audience members. This is a great choice whether you are feeling down and looking for inspiration or simply in the mood to experience some American history.
[Pictured: Giamatti and Crowe make a great pair in this inspirational sports drama]