Seeing Clint Eastwood’s ‘Million Dollar Baby’ again after a long time (First time I saw it after it won the best film Oscar in 2005), I was struck by the brave approach the screenwriter Paul Haggis and the director Eastwood took in the end of the film. It was a Hollywood film after all, and underdog achievement story that Hollywood loves so much. A 31-year-old girl from nowhere finds a coach to teach her boxing by sheer grit and determination and, she actually achieves greatness. All is well. Then something happens — an accident, which makes her bed-ridden for the rest of her life. And there’s more.
If you look closely, you’d observe that the film plots meticulously to that precise moment, when Maggie would reach the top. Frankie would finally be vindicated, and those perfect moments would pass and he would be faced with the greatest choice. The audience does not know what transpired between him and his estranged daughter, but as he warms up to the idea of Maggie as his daughter, tragedy must strike. That’s the rule of a story. The test lies in how the story in question deals with it. ‘Million Dollar Baby’ deals with it bravely, whereas it could have been one of those tear-jerking, feel-good summer yarn.
When the film released, there was a big debate whether the reviewers should reveal the ‘spoiler’, that is, what happens to Maggie in the end. Personally, I don’t mind a spoiler; in a story like this, it’s not what, but how that it more important. How Frankie, after everything, find the courage to do what he did.
Saying more, however, would be an injustice to those who haven’t seen the film.