In this true story brought to life by Ron Howard, James Braddock (Russell Crowe) is rising to the top of the boxing ranks in 1928. As he and his wife (Renée Zellweger) enjoy the good life and plan for a bright future, their dreams suddenly dim as his injuries leave him as broken as the Stock Market on Black Tuesday. New York’s one-time legend — a man of integrity, grit, solid work ethic, and commitment to family — finds himself scrimping to keep the electricity turned on in his family’s cramped New Jersey apartment. When Braddock gets a last-minute chance to fight in a Madison Square Garden match everyone’s sure he’ll lose, the old boxer punches his way back into the headlines, much to the reporters’ surprise. Fighting against ridiculous odds, Braddock is lifted up by the working class as a symbol of hope in unbearably difficult times. Will this Cinderella Man’s victory dance end at midnight or will he become the king of the ring?
This film, directed by Ron Howard, is a wonderful true story about boxing hall of fame great, Jimmy “Cinderella Man” Braddock. The soft spoken and patient Braddock (Russell Crowe) is a hero of uncompromising integrity, honesty, loyalty, and grit. He is a man to be respected not only for what he did, but also, and more importantly, for how he did it. At one point he is asked why he feels he is winning and he says “because I know what I’m fighting for now.” “What’s that?” the reporter asks. “Milk,” Jimmy responds. (You will have to see the film to know how that relates to Braddock’s character, but trust me, it speaks volumes.)
If you don’t know anything about Jimmy Braddock and you are planning to see this film, keep it that way. Let “Cinderella Man” tell you this story because Ron Howard is a master storyteller. He brings the nature of each character alive which makes the characters endearing and believable. One example is Jimmy’s manager, Joe Biegel, professionally known as Joe Gould (Paul Giamatti). He is such a believable character. In most boxing films you see the manager in the ring between rounds yelling at his fighter or reciting some line totally irrelevant to the situation. But Joe Gould was in there managing his fighter based on Jimmy’s situations. One time he said, “Go after him by throwing two left jabs and then a right.” In another fight it was, “Get in close and hammer on his body.” It was realistic and it made it appear as if Giamatti knew something about boxing. Moments like these endear the Gould character to the audience. That is the brilliance of Ron Howard.
Where Ron Howard fails in “Cinderella Man” is his inclusion of too much profanity and obscenities. The 1930s were indeed tough times, but it was also a more civil time where this kind of language was not used as frequently. One good point, though, is that the two main characters, Mae (Renée Zellweger) and Jimmy do not use crude and rough language. Unfortunately, foul language KO’s “Cinderella Man” from being considered for the Dove Seal.