Sunday, December 18, 2005

Million Dollar Baby

How good does a movie have to be before we can - everything taken into consideration and all quarters given - call it a bleedin' masterpiece? No clue. Have never been good with these things. But as far as Million Dollar Baby is concerned, I am willing to go the whole hog and call it just that: A bleedin' masterpiece.

Clint Eastwood wasn't the best actor when he played the lead in so many films through the 1970s and 1980s. Really. He was, of course, brilliant enough. But not more brilliant than that. Just stopped short of being a really great actor. Similar to John Wayne maybe. So similar, the two of them. Though Eastwood did get off the horse oftener than Wayne did. But starting with Unforgiven, what a fantastic director he has turned out to be. What a mind! Never got around to seeing Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil. Did see some of his earlier directorial attempts like The Outlaw Josie Wales, Sudden Impact, Pale Rider (this one I liked), Honkytonk Man and a couple of others. Middling, really. Nothing more. And Bridges of Madison County was bad. Worse than the book was (wonder why I ever read it). But then there was Mystic River a couple of years back. Pretentious, yes. But the pretentions of an able mind often lead to great things, and that's exactly what Mystic River was.

But cut to Million Dollar Baby. A really simple sort of story - quite Hindi film-ish actually in its simplicity. But what a brilliantly crafted film. Not an extra inch anywhere. Taut as taut can be. Moving as moving can be. Intelligent as intelligent can be. And so many other things.

Eastwood's greatest achievement in Million Dollar Baby is probably his attention to all the supporting actors (bar Eastwood himself, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman). Be it the priest who Eastwood meets (almost) every morning or Danger - the Fit Hit Gym fool. The beautiful cheatin' champion Swank fights her fateful fight with. Everyone.

The other great thing is what I call off-the-ball acting during conversations with friends. There are a number of scenes where this happens - most notably when it is Swank doing the off-the-ball bit. Eastwood and/or Freeman do the talking, and Swank does the listening. And reacting. And acting. All off-the-ball. And brilliant. She stands out each and every time. And steals scenes which belong to the other actors, not that either Eastwood or Freeman is bad. They can't be. They never have been.

NOTE: Isn't Morgan Freeman absolutely the most gorgeous man ever? What do you look for in a face? Power? He has it. Gentleness? Kindness? He has them both. Can he look scary? Stern? He can. All this while just waiting to break into a smile. And what a smile! Plus, he's black. If he could even be a per cent of the actor he is, it would have been enough. No one should be so perfect.