Russell Crowe
Renee Zellweger
Paul Giamatti
Craig Bierko
Paddy Considine
Bruce McGill
Connor Price
David Huband
Rosemarie DeWitt
Linda Kash

Ron Howard



Time: 144 mins.
Rating: PG-13
Genre: Drama

Academy Award Nominations for Best Supporting Actor (Giamatti), Film Editing and Makeup.

SYNOPSIS: The story of James Braddock, a supposedly washed-up boxer who came back from poverty and injury to become a champion and inspiration in Depression-era America.

BOTTOM LINE: Director Ron Howard once again uses Crowe's amazing ability for almost literally transforming into the characters he chooses to play to bring this true story of personal suffering and triumph to the big screen. They both take the larger than life figure of boxing champion Jim Braddock and turn him into a father everyone can relate to. While the art direction, costumes and cinematography bring the audience back to another time, Crowe brings us into the heart and soul of a man who's brought down by life and will do anything to keep his family together. By telling Braddock's rollercoaster story of success, the film shows just how deeply the Depression affected America up and down the socio-economic ladder without ever having to get political about it.

As a boxer, Braddock doesn't have many employment options. Every time he gets in the ring, all he's thinking about is putting food on his family's table. All his wife Mae can do is pray he won't get hurt. Zellweger gives Mae her usual spunk and intelligence, making you truly feel the agitating mixture of pride, dread and desperation that dogs her with every fight. A bit of ingenious wheeling and dealing by his relentless manager (in another brilliant turn by Giamatti), sets Braddock on the road back to riches, but Mae is sickened by the possibilities of Jim being crippled or killed. They need the money, but at what cost? When Jim gets the opportunity to fight Max Baer, the heavyweight champion of the world and a ruthless son-of-a-bitch in the ring, he knows, without a doubt, his moment has finally come to shine.

"I have to believe that when things are bad I can change them."

It's an intense battle that punch for punch is one of the best fights ever filmed. The outcome is history, but to see it play out is both brutal and balletic. Bierko is such an overwhelming creep as Baer that his defeat in the ring is extra sweet. Howard seems at his best when he's transferring real life heroes to the screen. Being forced to stick to the facts, keeps his penchanct for sentimentality at a minimum allowing the story to speak for itself. Crowe, also seems to be a balancing factor. He may choose larger than life characters to portray, but no one is better at finding and showcasing their humanity. A first-rate production in every category, CINDERELLA MAN brings to light a heartbreaking time in our country's history, telling its' tale of woe in a very entertaining way. Especially if you're a fan of boxing. The film is a touch too long and melodramatic at points, but Crowe and company ultimately make the ride worthwhile.

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