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Film / Million Dollar Baby

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"Working the bag, boss."

A 2004 film directed by Clint Eastwood.

Margaret Fitzerald (Hilary Swank) is a down-and-out waitress striving for a better life. So she does what all down-and-out waitress do to help herself out - she learns how to box. The first portion of the movie deals with Margaret training herself at the Hit Pit trying to get Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to train her into becoming a credible boxer. She eventually succeeds and is able to get Frankie and another trainer and former boxer Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman) to warm up to her.

After a good deal of training she enters into the world of professional women's boxing and becomes a remarkable fighter. Eventually the movie takes a turn for the worse.

Noted for its strong characters and interesting storyline, the film won four Oscars.


This film contains examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Maggie's mother is a sociopathic redneck idiot.
  • Academy Award: Four, in fact. Clint Eastwood's second Best Director, Hilary Swank's second Best Actress, Morgan Freeman for Best Supporting Actor and Best Picture of 2004.
  • All There in the Script: Morgan Freeman's character's full name is "Eddie 'Scrap Iron' Dupris", but he's only ever called "Scrap" by the other characters.
  • Arc Words: "Mo chuisle". Maggie doesn't find out what they mean until the end of the movie.
  • Artistic License – Sports: During the title bout, the Blue Bear commits several fouls that would result in immediate automatic disqualification in a real boxing match, but only receives warnings and/or point deductions for them. This was parodied by, of all things, Scary Movie 4.
  • As Long as It Sounds Foreign: The movie generally makes a hash of the Irish it tries to use. Somewhat justified however in that none of the characters speak Irish, and Frankie, who most frequently attempts it, is trying unsuccessfully to learn the language to get in touch with his Irish heritage. Of particular note is the significant phrase "mo chuisle," which the film spells "mo cuisle" (nouns take a "h" after the second letter when they're possessed).
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  • The Atoner: Frankie has made a point of attending Mass every day for 23 years straight, in penance for doing something that irreparably damaged his relationship with his daughter. As Father Horvak correctly points out, "The only man who comes to church that much is the kind that can't forgive himself for something."
  • Badass Grandpa: Morgan Freeman's character, particularly when he single-handedly KOs an upstart Jerk Ass boxer.
  • Braids of Action: Maggie and most of the other female boxers.
  • Break the Cutie: Poor, poor Danger Barch.
  • The Bully: Like Eddie discover, Berry is this to poor Danger.
  • Bury Your Disabled: Type 4, in which Frankie finally kills Maggie after she begs him to end her suffering.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Eddie had one at his 109th fight, losing one of his eyes. Maggie takes a hit and falls onto a stool which breaks her spine and leaves her paralyzed from the neck down.
  • Casualty in the Ring: Eddie lost the eyesight in one of his eyes years ago.
    • And Maggie becomes a quadraplegic.
  • Chekhov's Gun:
    • Maggie's story about her dog Axel and her father putting it down when it was sick. Actually used more skillfully in the film than in the short story, in which she tells the story right before asking Frankie to kill her. In the movie it comes a good hour beforehand.
    • Maggie asks if she should send some kind of gift to a girl whom she concussed in the ring, Frank dismisses it. It foreshadows that injuries happen in the ring, and that the fighters that did the injuring aren't expected to turn up again in the rest of the movie.
    • There are a lot of quick close-ups on the stool that Eastwood puts in the ring after each round.
  • Chiaroscuro: Used all over the place for dramatic effect.
  • Cool Old Guy: Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman. Need I say more?
  • Corrupt Hick: Margaret "Maggie" Fitzgerald's family, who hail from the Ozarks. They care little about Maggie's well-being, and will cheerfully cross the Moral Event Horizon just to get her money. Maggie herself is a Defector from Decadence.
  • Cynical Mentor: Frankie Dunn.
  • Deadpan Snarker: All three lead characters love to exchange sarcastic remarks.
  • Determinator: No matter how discouraging her circumstances or the people around her get, Maggie refuses to give up on her dream of becoming a boxing champion. After she's paralyzed, she's no less determined to end her own life.
  • Disappeared Dad: Maggie's father, who died long before she started her boxing career.
  • Downer Ending: And a controversial one at that.
  • Entitled Bastard: Maggie's mother seems to think that the world, and Maggie in particular, owes her a fortune even though she's a welfare queen who makes no effort to improve her lot. After Maggie buys her a house with no strings attached, she has the audacity to scold Maggie for not giving her cash.
  • Et Tu, Brute?: Willie Little abandoning Frankie early in the film after years of working with him for the chance to become rich and famous.
  • A Father to His Men: Frankie does far more to those he trains than just teaching them how to box; helping Willie Little dealing with a car dealer and Maggie with her family and injury.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Eddie. He spends his days as a glorified janitor and occasional trainer assistant.
  • Foreign Wrestling Heel: Billie the Blue Bear, described as a "former East Berlin prostitute" with no regard for sportsmanship or the safety of opponents.
  • Foreshadowing: One of these days, that East German boxer is going to kill someone. For more, see above for on Chekhov's Gun.
  • Genre Shift: Starts as sports movie about a woman trying to improve her life by becoming a boxer and ends as a massive Tear Jerker about assisted suicide.
  • Gut Punch: Or in this specific case, a sucker punch from behind, which triggered the Genre Shift.
  • The Hero Dies: Maggie herself at the end.
  • Heterosexual Life-Partners: Frankie and Eddie.
  • Hoist by His Own Petard: Maggie's self-interested mother never signed the full title to the house granting her ownership of it, so that she would continue to rely on welfare. Maggie is aware of this and when her family comes back demanding title to everything, not caring at all about her crippling injury, she promises to sell the house if they dare come back, forcing them to leave emptyhanded.
  • Innocently Insensitive: When they first meet, Danger Barch happily assures Eddie that they'll get along, as he "ain't go no problem with niggers." Eddie takes it in stride, understanding that Barch means well and simply doesn't know any better.
  • Inspirationally Disabled: Danger has shades of this.
  • I Have No Son!: Inverted, in the end, Maggie disowns her family after being the pieces of shit they are.
  • Jerkass: Maggie's family, especially her mother, shows astounding levels of dickitude, with a generous helping of hypocrisy.
    • Her mother berates her for taking up boxing even though she's good at it and it's making her rich, insisting it's not something a lady should do. She herself is on welfare and doing nothing to improve her situation.
    • When she starts winning big purses, Maggie buys her mother a house. A house. She berates Maggie for not giving her cash instead. If she's a homeowner, you see, she won't qualify for welfare anymore and she doesn't want to work. Toward the end, we find out she never signed the ownership transfer paperwork even though she's living in the house, and it's a major plot point that Maggie still owns the house.
    • When Maggie is paralyzed, her family visits her in the nursing home, after spending a week at Disneyworld and Universal Studios, and tries to get Maggie to sign over all her money to them. This apparently crosses a line, as Maggie tells them that not only are they not getting one dime, if they or their lawyer ever speak to her again she'll sell the house out from under them.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Frankie.
  • Karma Houdini: Downplayed: It's not shown that Billie the Blue Bear was disqualified, but the referee was getting annoyed with her constant breaking of the rules, and even threatened to disqualify her once. Bille was probably disqualified immediately once the doctors realized the injuries she had inflicted on Maggie after intentionally punching her between rounds.
  • Kill the Ones You Love: Makes use of Chekhov's Skill as Frankie uses his expert knowledge of adrenaline to do the deed.
  • Oireland: Invoked. Clint's character tries to rediscover his Irish roots by attending Catholic mass without understanding the substance of the religion, learning Gaelic reading William Butler Yeats (who mostly wrote in English), and giving Maggie an Irish boxing gimmick.
  • The One Who Made It Out: Maggie's lucrative boxing career enables her to escape life with her hick family, run by a welfare queen who makes no effort to improve her lot and is interested only in getting Maggie's newfound fortune even when Maggie buys a house for them. Even after she becomes a quadriplegic and her family visits to try to get title to her assets, Maggie is able to kick them out because she still owns their house and can sell it anytime she wants.
  • Opposing Sports Team: Not a team, but Billie the Blue Bear otherwise fits the trope with her intimidating aura and willingness to break the rules.
  • Oscar Bait: Due to ending, three huge stars as the main characters, and the usual triumph over adversity turning into even more adversity, this was a shoo-in.
  • Parental Substitute: Frankie, for Maggie.
  • Politically Incorrect Hero: Frankie makes some mildly sexist comments and initially refuses to do anything to help Maggie, though his opinion of her changes as the movie goes along. Helping Maggie kill herself after she is paralyzed also at least partially counts for this.
  • Precision F-Strike:
    Frankie Dunn: So is Jesus a Demigod?
    Father Horvak: There are no Demigods, you fucking Pagan!
  • Retired Badass: Eddie's one, as Shawrelle finds out.
  • Rule of Drama: As powerful as they are, the hospital scenes are a tad unrealistic. In Real Life, hospitalized patients have every right to decline treatment. If they're attached to a breathing machine against their will, they don't have to attempt suicide or beg friends to euthanize them. They can just ask doctors to turn off their respirator. And no hospital would ever keep a patient sedated 24/7 just to stop them from committing suicide—they would more likely get them psychiatric counseling or put them on anti-depressants.
  • Shoot the Dog: Maggie relates a story about her father euthanizing her family's crippled dog.
    • And Frankie later does the same thing for Maggie.
  • Sickening "Crunch!": When Maggie breaks her neck on the corner stool.
  • Slow-Motion Fall: Used most significantly in the last fight with the fall that paralyzes Maggie for life.
  • There Are No Therapists: Towards the end, Maggie becomes so despondent that she attempts suicide by biting her tongue and begs Frankie to pull the plug on her. The hospital's first reaction is to keep her sedated 24/7 so she can't attempt suicide—instead of getting her the psychiatric help that she obviously needs.
  • Tongue Trauma: After she's paralyzed, Maggie tries to commit suicide by biting through her tongue.
  • Training Montage: Maggie gets one, though minus the cheesy music.
  • The Un-Reveal: We never learn what, exactly, Frankie did that drove his daughter away. Apparently it was so bad that he's made a point of attending Mass nearly every day for 23 years straight.
  • Ungrateful Bastard: Maggie's mother and sister, who object to her buying a house for them for fear of losing their welfare and instead insist on money.
  • Wham Line: When Maggie asks Franie to let her die.
    Maggie: You remember what my Daddy did for Axle?
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: It wasn't clear if Billie was punished for permanently injuring Maggie.
  • What Might Have Been: Morgan Freeman originally auditioned for the role of Frankie before being cast as Eddie. Also, screenwriter/producer Paul Haggis wanted to direct this himself, but scheduling conflicts with Crash forced him to hand the project to Clint.
  • Word Salad Title: Million what-what? It makes more sense when you see the film, but you still wonder surely there must have been a better name for it.
  • Worst Aid: Frankie realizes how sub-par the quality of care is at the hospital Maggie goes to after losing the title match and breaking her spine and arranges to have her moved to a better one.
    • Pressure ulcers are completely preventable and are a sign of negligence. Developing one to the point of the limb becoming infected and needing amputation is a very low quality of care.
    • Likely a subversion, Frankie clearly wants to believe that the doctors are incompetent because they can't fix Maggie's spine. He eventually has to accept that she's just too badly injured to be fixed.
  • You Are Not Alone: Frankie says words to this effect to Maggie after she is estranged from her family.
  • You're Not My Father: Maggie aims this squarely at her mother and siblings, seeing right through their scheme to claim title to everything she owns and never working to help themselves. Having tired of their self-serving ways, she warns them never to return or she'd sell the house she still holds the title to.


Example of: