Maurice Timothy ReidyApril 13, 2005 - 4:32am0 comments
Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby, which won the Academy Award for best picture this year, has also been praised by the nation’s film critics. A. O. Scott of the New York Times called it a “work of utter mastery” and Roger Ebert dubbed it the best movie of the year long before Oscar did. Some viewers, however, have found the film quite troubling. They objected to the ending, in which (spoiler alert) the boxing trainer played by Clint Eastwood, who also directed the picture, helps a young female boxer die after she suffers a damaging spinal-cord injury. Unfortunately, much of this criticism has been shrill. Rush Limbaugh, not one of our most subtle and nuanced commentators, called it a “million dollar euthanasia movie.” The disability rights group Not Dead Yet claimed that the film conveys the message, “better dead than disabled.”
I also found the ending of the film disturbing, though I think it deserves more sober scrutiny than it has received thus far. Million Dollar Baby is not a “euthanasia film” in the way that, say, The Cider House Rules is an apologia for abortion rights. Two-thirds of the film, which is really an old-fashioned boxing drama, doesn’t deal with euthanasia at all. That said, when I left the theater all I could think about was the ending, which I found manipulative and depressingly bleak.
Maggie Fitzgerald, the female fighter played by Hilary Swank, suffers her injury during a...