You know when I saw the preview for this movie back in the spring time, I was quick to label it as cheap melodrama. Now I just feel like a fool. This is one of the best depression era movies I have ever seen. This is the first one to actually give me a deeper understanding of just what people were going through at the time. Two years ago I saw “Seabiscuit” and even though I enjoyed it, I found that it was too uplifting. This one is about true heroism and it has nothing to do with boxing, but everything to do with taking care of the people you love.
Russell Crowe is an astonishing actor. Plain and simple. He deserves, yet another Oscar nomination for his work here as Jim Braddock. You might be thinking that he is getting way to much exposure, but just look at his work. He seems to be involved with one great movie after another. “Master and Commander”, “Gladiator”, “A Beautiful Mind”, “L.A. Confidential”, and now this. He is in full command of this movie. Here is a guy with real heart. No matter how low he sinks, he still has his pride and his family. One particular scene showed his true skills. Braddock finds himself on the verge of losing his children. He is broke and desperate. So he walks in on his former promoters, trainers, and employers to beg for money. It is a hard scene to sit through, but a powerful one.
Renee Zellweger is somebody that has really grated my teeth in recent years. I have found her plucky and pleasant in movies like “Nurse Betty”, “Bridget Jones” and “Jerry Maguire”, but her dramatic side has been rather sub par. She has been getting oscar nominations on sheer luck and charm I think. But in movies like “Cold Mountain” and “Chicago” she has been tested, and sadly, she has failed. No at first I thought this was going to be another forgettable supporting performance, but how wrong I was. She holds her own. Especially when she finally cracks and puts her marriage and her pride on the line. Finally, I can honestly say, she deserves an Oscar nomination for this role. And not in a supporting category.
What more can I say about Paul Giamatti? He has been screwed over by the Academy for two straight years. First it was his beautiful portrayal of Harvey Pekar in “American Splendor,” then it was the best performance of 2004 in the brilliant “Sideways”. Here he shows his stuff again as Braddock’s trainer through all the years.. Maybe this time some of the Academy members will grow a brain.
Now being that I am only 24 years old, I have only read about the depression era. But I am pretty certain this movie has got the look and feel of it about right. Ron Howard displays it as the harsh reality that it was. Jobs were scarce, unemployment was soaring and poverty was at an all time high. Here, I really felt the pain and suffering of a country that was seriously down.
Now is this a great movie? I believe so. There are some times when Howard is guilty of a little melodrama here and there, but the performances as well as the look and the feel of the movie shine. This is a prime example of me judging a book by its cover.