Million Dollar Baby is a film that will always have a spot on the list of my all-time favorites. The movie features three performances by Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood, and Morgan Freeman that were all Oscar-nominated. All the performances are remarkable and they are what make this film so involving. But, if I had to pick one performance out of the three, it would have to be Hilary Swank. The reason I pick her is because I feel that Eastwood and Freeman were familiar with the roles they had to play in the film. Even though this is probably his best performance, Eastwood has played the gruff type before. And we all know that Freeman has the talent to move the audience with not only dialogue, but voice-overs as well. But not many people saw Hilary Swank as a sexually confused teenager in Boys Don't Cry and thought that in a couple years' time she'd be winning an Oscar for playing a female boxer.
The woman that Swank plays in the film is a hillbilly named Maggie Fitzgerald. She is poor dirt; she does hard work as a waitress and still has to steal food to get buy. Her life savings consist of a jar of coins, and she still finds time to get up every morning at four o' clock and train for a sport she knows nothing about.
She shows up at Frankie Dunn's (Clint Eastwood) gym and continually pressures him to be her trainer. She knows that with Frankie in her corner, she has a chance to be something special. What develops is one of the greatest love stories ever captured on film. It is not a relationship built on romantic interest, but rather mutual respect and need for each other. Frankie reveals pretty early on that he hasn't seen his daughter in years, and, as the film goes on, we learn about Maggie's family and her lack of a father figure.
Swank plays every scene to perfection. She doesn't play the character as an overly-emotional wreck; she is always in control of the character. On top of the emotional prowess of Swank's performance, it is more than worth noting how much she trained for this film. The movie is a love story, but there are still numerous boxing sequences and Swank obviously put a lot of work into it. It reminds me of Mickey Rourke's performance because of the level of dedication is so high. Even though the boxing and the wrestling are small pieces of the puzzle, they both put an astonishing amount of work towards shaping up.
Hilary Swank has been nominated for two leading actress Oscars to date; and she has won both. Later this year, she is coming out with a definite awards contender titled Amelia, and we'll see if she can make it three for three. The thing that makes me love actors and actresses like Hilary Swank is their willingness to play characters of all different types. A transsexual in Boys Don't Cry; a police officer in Insomnia; a female boxer in Million Dollar Baby; an inner-city teacher in Freedom Writers; and a female pilot in the upcoming Amelia. Her résumé is astonishing, and she is likely to only get better as her career goes along. But, to date, her turn as Maggie Fitzgerald is her best work. Now we just have to sit back and see if she can top it.