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Cinderella Man

Genre: Drama
Rated: PG-13
Directed by: RON HOWARD
Starring: RUSSELL CROWE, RENÉE ZELLWEGER, PAUL GIAMATTI, CRAIG BIERKO, PADDY COSIDINE
Released by: Universal Pictures

In Short: Ron Howard’s moving tale of the exemplary life of boxer James J. Braddock (a.k.a. the "Cinderella Man") is sober and balanced—a certain Oscar contender.

Balanced and Unsentimental
Ron Howard Proves that Good Feelings Can Make for a Good Movie
by André Gayot

Making a good movie filled to the brim with good feelings is pretty much like trying to square a circle: mission almost impossible. But Ron Howard pulls it off with "Cinderella Man." There’s a high risk for a director to churn out a weepie when such a heartening story is told, depicting starving kids, a selfless mom and a heroic dad; a story where courage, tenacity and honesty prevail in a world where all values have gone awry.


Although the title is evocative of a holiday season Disney release for kids, this is not the case with "Cinderella Man." The film succeeds in being moving without overplaying the sensitive cords, because Howard’s narration of the exemplary life of boxer James Braddock (Russell Crowe) is sober and balanced. What could be considered sickly sentimental is indeed the counter measure to the extreme violence of heavyweight boxing, leading, in extreme cases, to death. Opposing this pitiless and sometimes corrupt universe of professional boxing, where the fate of a man represents no more than a business factor, requires the angelic smiles of children and the tenderness of a loving mother. To withstand this beastly brutality we need to immerse ourselves in a united and loving family circle.

Although "Cinderella Man" cannot be categorized as a boxing movie, boxing has never been portrayed so well on screen. The performance of Russell Crowe is as astounding as the cinematography is sizzling. The spectator stands right in the ring and mentally falters under the fists of the boxers. Howard makes us share the pain, the fear, the despair, the anxiety and the anger of the fighters, reminding us (and this is not a coincidence) of the gladiators in the Roman arenas.

The long and daunting march of James J. Braddock (a.k.a. the "Cinderella Man") from poverty in the slums of New York to success and notoriety takes place during the dark years of the Great Depression. To a younger audience this is only history, and we are too inclined to forget these somber ages—although for the old timers who lived through them (and survived) it seems like it just happened yesterday. It’s good that a movie whose aim is to entertain and to comfort with a moral tale also reminds us with tact and finesse that if “happy days are here again” they do come at a price previous generations paid for—dearly. Let’s put "Cinderella Man" on the list for the Oscars.


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