Preview by: Jack Foley
THE last time Russell Crowe teamed up with Ron Howard the film
that resulted was the Oscar-winning A
A quick glance at their latest collaboration and it might appear
that the Academy could well be interested in what they have to
offer once again.
Cinderella Man is a biopic of Depression-era prizefighter, James
Braddock (Crowe), an aging boxer who captured the hearts of a
nation when he decided to head back into the room in order to
feed his family, despite the personal risk of injury.
It co-stars Academy favourite, Renee Zellweger as Braddock's
wife, Mae, and Sideways star,
Paul Giamatti, as his corner man, Joe Gould.
And while the premise sounds like a bit of a mix between Seabiscuit
and Million Dollar Baby,
you can bet that Crowe and Howard will work hard to ensure that
the movie works on its own terms.
Howard, especially, is keen to point out that in directing terms,
'this is much more akin to my experience on Apollo 13 in that
the narrative of the true story is so clear and direct and dramatic'.
He also recalls the story of Braddock from a family point of
"My dad has been a lifelong boxing fan and the fight which
is the climax of our movie was the first boxing match that he
ever listened to on the radio," he told Entertainment Weekly.
"It was important enough that they literally climbed into
their truck in Oklahoma and drove to town and listened to the
fight in the pool hall."
While co-star, Zellweger, is simply gushing in her praise of
just about everyone involved.
She admits to being deeply impressed by Crowe's 'unwavering commitment'
to the role, while Giamatti's portrayal of Gould is described
as being so acute that 'the man disappears and all that's left
is the character'.
Of the story itself, Zellweger adds that she feels audiences
can't fail to be moved by 'the beauty of that love story - a man
overcoming all odds to take care of his family and become a champion'.
To find out more about Braddock's story, click here.
Cinderella Man opens in UK cinemas on September 2.
Critics in America have hailed Russell Crowe's latest as another
knockout from the actor, with reviews mostly positive.
Leading the accolades was USA Today, whose critic
declared that 'I've never seen a boxing movie that has so convinced
me I was seeing a pro bout both real and sustained'.
While the Houston Chronicle noted that 'the
fight scenes hurt, not because they're edited like quicksilver
or nimbly staged - they are - but because we are made to care
so deeply for the title character'.
The New York Times, meanwhile, stated that 'Ron
Howard's film about the heavyweight boxer James J. Braddock is
a shamefully ingratiating old-fashioned weepie'.
While the Chicago Sun-Times noted that 'most
serious movies live in a world of cynicism and irony, and most
good-hearted movie characters live in bad movies. Here is a movie
where a good man prevails in a world where every day is an invitation
Positive, too, was the Washington Post, which
wrote that 'we're in an almost irony-free zone, where everything
is exactly as it seems, and no subtexts are available for subtext-fanatics'.
But the Chicago Tribune felt that 'Howard's
relentless and flat-footed attack on our sympathies slips into
monotony. The first half drags on for longer than it should, as
we're told over and over that people were poor, very poor. Depressed
even. Because it was the Depression'.
And the Globe and Mail lamented that 'Howard
has got but a single message to deliver here - boxer Braddock
as the populist American hero of the Depression era — and
he beats us over the head with his uplifting haymaker until we're
crumbled on the canvas and crying for mercy'.
But Variety stated that 'Cinderella Man takes
the almost impossibly perfect elements of the saga of underdog
boxer James J. Braddock and fills it with emotional gravitas,
wrenching danger and a panoramic sense of American life during
the Great Depression'.
And the San Francisco Chronicle declared it
to be 'easily the best American film so far this year'.
The Hollywood Reporter also hailed it as a triumphant,
noting that it is 'a superbly acted, beautifully shot, highly
engaging drama that ranks as one of Howard's best efforts'.
The final word, however, goes to Entertainment Weekly,
which concluded: "How exceptional a film actor is Russell
Crowe? So exceptional that in Cinderella Man, he makes a good
boxing movie feel at times like a great, big picture."