James J. Braddock (played by Russell Crowe) is a hard-working man, struggling to eke out a living in New York City during the Great Depression of the 1920’s/30’s. He’s also a prize-fighter who has publicly and spectacularly fallen from grace. He’s hit rock bottom and is now battling injury and controversy, trying to support his wife Mae (by Renee Zellwegger) and their three children, but he’s finding it tough to get a bout. He’s unable to pay the bills so with his family in danger, to his utter repugnance he is forced to go on public welfare. But his determination to fight again, along with the strong love and honour he feels, drives him to keep trying to help his family. He summons the will to return to the ring. Nobody rates his chances, but driven by sheer grit Braddock fights on and starts to win, then keeps winning. Suddenly, this working man-in-the-street becomes an athlete, much adored, nicknamed the “Cinderella Man” and bearing the hopes and dreams of the depressed community. Until the day Braddock and his spirited manager Joe Gould (by Paul Giamatti) come up with a scheme that pits James against the reigning world heavyweight champ Max Baer (by Craig Bierko), who’s known as a killer in the ring …..
This is a great movie. Russell Crowe is marvellous and unapologetically brutal as James J. Braddock. But I didn’t find this offensive or overdone – it’s appropriate for this gritty role. Renee Zellwegger is great as the long-suffering Mae, I liked her performance a lot. As is quite often the case too, Paul Giamatti’s scenes are terrific – in fact, I’d say he and Russell Crowe are the stand-outs. The period environment and the ‘science’ of boxing gets a good airing. I did enjoy the toughness of the story and Russell Crowe’s outstanding athleticism and efforts as Braddock. This is a compelling real-life story of this family and Ron Howard does give it a “feel good” twist, which you may or may not appreciate. In 2006, Paul Giamatti was nominated as best supporting actor in the Academy Awards (Oscars) for this performance. There are several books and documentaries about James J. Braddock and in general, I think this is a good movie.
Made in 2005. Directed by Ron Howard.