Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank), a waitress from a small Missouri town in the Ozarks, shows up at the Hit Pit, a Los Angeles gym owned and operated by Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood), a boxing trainer. Maggie asks Dunn to train her, but he retorts that he doesn’t train girls. Maggie attempts to persuade Frankie by working out diligently every day in his gym. Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman), Frankie’s employee and good friend, encourages her.
Frankie’s main boxing prospect is Willie Little (Mike Colter), but Willie signs with another manager Mickey Mack (Bruce MacVittie) after becoming impatient with Frankie for not signing him with a championship bout. Frankie eventually becomes impressed with Maggie’s persistence and agrees to train her, with the caveat that it is just until she learns the basics and finds another manager.
Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) is “the best cut man in the business’ intones the narrator, Morgan Freeman in “Million Dollar Baby.” Frankie can clean up a cut in seconds so that a fighter can get back in the ring and at the very least finish the fight and at best, win.
Yet Frankie can’t heal the emotional wounds of his life even though he spends 365 days a year at Mass and writes letters to his estranged daughter every day asking for, I assume forgiveness. But the letters come back marked “Return to Sender” and Frankie files them away in a box and his life returns to the needs and wants of his Gym for Boxers and to his best friend, confidant and former fighter, Eddie Dupris (Morgan Freeman).
And then Maggie Fitzgerald walks into Frankie’s Gym, pays her Gym dues for six months and asks Frankie every day to train her. And everyday he turns her down: “you’re too old, too skinny…and you’re a girl,” he says.
Until one day she wears him down, he concedes to her wishes and there begins a Cinderella story of fights won, money earned and glory attained. And then it’s all taken away.
Eastwood has made some great, even unforgettable films: “The Unforgiven, “Bird” to name a couple. But he has done nothing to match the guts, emotional power and poignancy of “Million Dollar Baby.” And Hillary Swank, pretty much floundering after “Boys Don’t Cry,” is as sunny, thoughtful and real as she’s ever been.
Character to watch: Hilary Swank as Maggie Fitzgerald.
Journal your answers to the following questions after you watch the movie.
- How does this particular character’s journey compare with yours?
- Did the character develop certain characteristics during the movie that you have or that you would like to have? If so, what are those characteristics?
- What obstacles did this character face? What was his or her biggest challenge?
- What would you have done differently if you had been in the same position as the character?
- Is this character the type of person you would be friends with? Why or why not?