Thursday, February 17, 2005

Million Dollar Baby: Part II

Maybe there really wasn't a part one-- but I know I've mentioned this before. And if you haven't already seen the film, do not read this review... I promise I will ruin it for you.

As I've given great consideration to the plot of Million Dollar Baby over the last several weeks and have read many reviews, I've decided this: The reason I dislike the film is because I am firmly against assisted suicide and euthanasia. I am not only against the practice of assisted suicide in everyday life, I am against it in literature.

This decision has been influenced by 2 things-- 1) A recent conversation I had about the fate of Terry Schiavo and 2) This week's review by Orson Scott Card on his website Uncle Orson Reviews Everything.

First, for those of you have been oblivious to current events for the last several years, I don't know maybe you were on a mission, Terry Schiavo is a Florida woman who has been in the news many times over the last at least 3 years because she is living on life support. The argument is over who should be the consenting guardian, he husband who wished to take her off life support, or her parents, who wish to keep her alive. Yes, quality of life should be considered and she chose her husband not her parents, but that is all beside the point. The point is this... some believe taking her off the life support is assisting her suicide.

Second, Hilary Swank dies in Million Dollar Baby-- At the hands of her otherwise caring trainer and confidant, Clint Eastwood. In all the reviews I've read that have glorified the likes of Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman for such a beautiful film, I've not once read, until the reviews of OSC, that possibly using the assisted suicide was a mistake. Forget the fact that it ruined what could have been an okay film...alright I won't go that far as I felt the plot was dismal and disheartening, but the film certainly could have benefited from either a twist of fate or simply the courage of director Eastwood to go against the grain and not follow the story set before him by the book.

Orson Scott Card says that "suicide or assisted suicide is what bad or inexperienced writers resort to when they don't have an ending." I think that is absolutely necessary to understanding why in my opinion this movie tanked. The ending is meaningless and leaves you frustrated. It took a few days before I was able to process what had happened. You have an overly important character like Frankie (Eastwood's character) assisting an overly ambitious character like Maggie (Swank's character) and the ending ruins it all but suggesting that Frankie comfortably took her life.

The problems with the film are immense. At some point the performance of Morgan Freeman gets caught between the crosshairs as Swank and Eastwood struggle to pull off the elaborate hoax of ending Swank's life-- something Morgan wasn't in on (I hope anyway). There are just little inconsistencies that exist that leave the viewer baffled. Why is Eastwood's daughter not speaking to him and if we knew would it in anyway help us to understand his character or how he could take Swank's life?

Bottom line, if Frankie Dunn was the type of character they built him up to be through the beginning of the film, why did he let Maggie's depression convince him that it was okay to take her life? He could have told her to live and she would have. He could have told her to walk and she may have... that's the influence he had on her impressionable life.

Taking the life of another is murder. Assisted suicide really is no different. The person wanting to terminate their own life can't possibly be in any sane state to make that decision. Maggie knew what was going on and may have requested it, but I imagine there should have been some sort of resistance on Frankie's part.

Terry Schiavo I realize is another story. She is in no state to make any requests, neither to request to die or to live, but taking her off life support is not assisting her suicide when no one knows if she wants to live or die. The question with her is whether or not you let her husband or her parents decide.

A long rant, really on nothing other than a movie that thoroughly confused and frustrated me. And I really wanted to mention Terry because that is a story I've been following since I was in high school. Let me leave you with the words of Uncle Orson:

"Sometimes we do things to keep people alive against their will. That's what civilization is about. It's what love is about. But it's certainly not what Million Dollar Baby is about."

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