Million Dollar Baby
|Keywords||Caregivers, Death and Dying, Disability, Euthanasia, Family Relationships, Hospitalization, Human Worth, Patient Experience, Poverty, Suffering, Suicide|
Thirty-one-year-old waitress and aspiring (but inexperienced) boxer Maggie Fitzgerald (Hilary Swank) tries to get aging trainer-coach Frankie Dunn (Clint Eastwood) to take her on, but where Maggie is unstoppably optimistic, Frankie is worn out, even burned out, and he repeatedly refuses. The two are brought together by Frankie's assistant, ex-fighter Eddie "Scrap-Iron" Dupris (Morgan Freeman). Freeman, whom the other characters call Scrap, narrates the film.
Maggie and Frankie have their ups and down, but Maggie rapidly becomes a formidable boxer, a great favorite with fans. Eventually she finds herself in the ring as challenger for the world welterweight title. The unscrupulous defender delivers an illegal punch to Maggie, resulting in a fall that leaves her paralyzed below the neck.
At this point the story turns from boxing to Maggie's injury, which is incurable and worsening because she is bedridden. After Maggie loses a leg to bed sores, she tells Frankie that she doesn't want to go on, and she asks him to put her out of her misery. Short as her career has been, she has known success and happiness beyond the dreams of her dirt-poor upbringing, and she wants to leave life while she can still remember those good things.
Frankie, a serious Catholic, has religious qualms. His priest tells him not to get involved. From his own point of view, Frankie has come to feel attached to Maggie, and at first he steadfastly refuses Maggie's request. Maggie, unable to act in any other way, bites her tongue violently in an attempt to bleed herself to death. After witnessing her agony, Frankie tells the priest that keeping Maggie close to him--in other words, not killing her--has come to feel like a sin. He then acts to rid himself of that sin. He covertly removes her air supply and then injects her with adrenalin. Frankie does not return to his gym, vanishing without a word.
Mainly about boxing, this film in its final sequences gives us a poignant, though quite limited, treatment of the topic of euthanasia. The film does not treat professional ethics, as the medical care Maggie receives in the hospital and later in a rehab center is strangely off-stage. (Has she been given any counseling? Has she asked her doctors to take her off life support?) Neither does it treat legal matters, as Frankie, who performs the criminal act, vanishes after euthanizing Maggie. It focuses instead on one very broad question: Under what circumstances is it right to end one's life, or help end another's life, because of a loss or disability?
Although the film seems to take place in the present time (2004), its lack of interest in the ethical and legal details that are part of modern medicine gives it a dreamlike quality, with its concluding actions taking place essentially outside of culture. The film avoids many debatable issues, implying that such things are a matter of individual choice or need. Million Dollar Baby was controversial, not just for setting humane values against religious doctrine, but also because to some viewers it conveyed an unfortunate view of disability, suggesting that life with disability might not be worth living, and that it could be a good, even heroic, thing to euthanize a disabled person. Medical viewers might also question Frankie's methods, which would seem to suffocate Maggie on the way to giving her peace, although the film does not show that.
(Readers will find many related items in this database under keywords such as "Death and Dying," "Disability," "Euthanasia," "Law and Medicine," and "Suicide.")
|Leading Actors||Clint Eastwood, Morgan Freeman, Hilary Swank|
|Running Time||132 minutes|
|Video Source||Warner Home Video|
|Miscellaneous||Oscars for best film, best director, best actress, best supporting actor, and many other awards and nominations. Screenplay by Paul Haggis. Based on stories from F. X. Toole's "Rope Burns."|
|Annotated by||Woodcock, John A.|
|Date of Entry||01/20/06|