Roger Ebert and Chris Matthews both devoted segments of their shows this weekend to defending Million Dollar Baby from some increasingly vocal critics. The best objections I’ve found to Clint & Co.’s handling of the ending (and yes, SPOILERS AHEAD) have come from my stepfather, who gave me permission to repost them here:
I’ve thought more about ‘Million Dollar Baby’ and come up with these ideas:
The priest was a paper tiger.
He offered no insights into the circumstances.
The Catholic church was merely a non-factor, not even a foil in this flick.
The boxer was not offered any alternative save self-pity and suicide.
She was not told that there was help for her or that life could be lived and lived in many respects quite fully (perhaps even more fully than she had experienced it before) as a quadriplegic.
She did not take her boxing skills of dogged determination, perseverance and regimented training and discipline into the fray with her own physical condition.
To say that a quadriplegic has nothing to live for is quite an assertion and risks fostering a continuum on which one end gives over end-of-life issues to the medical establishment or family members or even to the person themselves before they are ready to clearly see their options.
Depression and grief are very real and deep issues related to loss mobility impairment and these were never addressed by any counselor or priest-figure in the flick.
I know, it’s only a movie, and Hitchcock is right about that; but the big screen does stamp some big images on the consciousness and subconsious of the audience.
I give this one a worthwhile flick vote simply because it addresses a difficult social subject (a sucker punch script, literally).
I had many more misgivings about Mystic River than Million Dollar Baby, but the more I think about it, the more I agree that the ending didn’t give us enough time to clearly see the situation of Hilary Swank’s character and there seems to be some dangerous assumptions in that she has become a ‘million dollar baby’ — that her inability to live independently makes her analogous to a real baby. No telling if the Academy is going to have similar misgivings before noon tomorrow — that’s the Oscar ballot deadline.