Swank is exceptional in the role, aided by a clever, witty screenplay (by Paul Haggis) and the fact that her character was written to be smart and compassionate herself.
It’s a sensational part for an incredibly skilled actress.
When Margaret “Maggie” Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a 31-year-old girl from Missouri with an uncommon amount of heart, pesters Dunn to take her under his wing, he grows frustrated and belligerent.
“I don’t train girls.” “Everything in boxing is backwards.” Dupris is softer around the edges, inspiring him to give a few pointers to the persistent woman – including lending her a speed bag unearthed from Dunn’s back room, and refusing to evict her from the premises.
A beautiful, feisty young woman is tragically paralyzed in a boxing-ring accident? When a new paraplegic is distraught and suicidal, it should be treated like any other depression, rather than a warrant for suicide.
The people who love her should try to help her envision a different kind of future, one that’s very different from what she expected, but still valuable.But Maggie asks Frankie instead to help her commit suicide. She doesn’t say she’s in intractable pain, and doesn’t look it either; this is accurate, because medical advances mean that now virtually all pain can be managed.She does suffer from bedsores, to the point that a leg must be amputated; this is less accurate, because such a condition could be a sign of culpably bad nursing care. I was in magazines."In other words, she can’t bear to be a has-been.Maggie comes from a hardscrabble background and has always felt like "trash," she says. She turns out to be a gifted boxer and is on the way to a world championship. Then a ruthless opponent lands a surprise punch between rounds, and Maggie falls, smacking her head brutally against the stool placed in her corner. Frankie begins to make arrangements for her new life.He brings her a catalog for the community college, and says he’s found a kind of wheelchair she can steer by blowing into a tube.There are further messages and character development in subplots with Scrap-Iron’s former career, Frankie’s frequent visits to church, and with a wimpy but determined fighter (Jay Baruchel), all while remarkably subtle foreshadowing sets up the devastating finale (a twist that can’t be forgotten, but which packs a considerable punch for anyone unfamiliar with its existence).As the film draws to its powerhouse close, gentle piano music by Eastwood himself gives this haunting tragedy an even higher level of poignancy, revealing that, despite using boxing as a motivational tool for the characters, the story is actually about varying shades of love, suffering, and the human condition.For contrast, and also for that rare, amusing father/daughter or mentor/mentee pairing, Eastwood continues to perfect his crabby, crotchety old man routine; a bitter, regretful persona with a distinct inability to do the wrong thing.And Freeman once again aptly handles the wise guide character, relaying philosophical observations on everything from boxing techniques to life itself, while also narrating in that funereal yet calm manner.This Calendar will let you know when I’m in your neighborhood.[National Review Online, January 31, 2005]Clint Eastwood’s "Million Dollar Baby" has won a basketful of Oscar nominations: Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor, Best Director, and Best Adapted Screenplay.