Saturday, August 22, 2015
CNS/USCCB (J. McCarthy) review
ChicagoTribune (M. Phillips) review
RogerEbert.com (B. Tallerico) review
AVClub (A.A. Dowd) review
Southpaw  (directed by Antoine Fuqua, screenplay by Kurt Sutter) is a boxing movie that went into wide release to mixed reviews (above) some weeks ago. Due to said mixed reviews, I did not see it then, somewhat to my regret now.
This is because boxing movies are generally about "more than boxing" (they are about struggle in general) and often the "critical class" (reviewers) is/are not the one(s) to which these films are primarily directed or the one(s) who best understand(s) them. To make the point, I wish to note here that I was asked several times during the past several weeks by parishioners if I've seen this movie, and with increasing embarrassment, I've had to respond "not yet."
Boxing movies are generally genre movies. As such they are often enough (unsurprisingly) heavily cliched. And yet that they are cliched, does not necessarily render them unsatisfying much less without value. Perhaps the best way to understand Southpaw  is to appreciate that despite being largely about "anger management" (controlling rage despite hard knocks / tragedy) its purpose (redemptive) and approach (fictional) are far closer to Silvester Stalone's Rocky  than to Martin Scorsese's / Robert DeNiro's Raging Bull : The goal of the film is not to watch Jake Gyllanhaal's boxer named "Billy Hope" (!) self destruct, but rather to watch him, despite having experienced some very very hard knocks, (re)build himself (back) into "being somebody." The vast majority of viewers could probably count the number of times they've picked-up a set of boxing gloves on one hand (or perhaps even less...) but would nevertheless _completely understand_ the story being told.
In Billy Hope's Job-like "Descent into Hell" from previous boxing super-stardom, he tragically loses his wife (played by Rachel McAdams) (and, of course, _partly_ because of his own previous arrogance/stupidity). Then / as a result he "loses his focus" (hence his next Fight), then his house and even for a time his 8-10 year-old daughter Leila (wonderfully played in the film by Oona Lawrence).
Perhaps the most redeeming / instructive part of the film is watching Billy Hope, who the audience knows has ALL KINDS OF REASONS TO BE ANGRY AT THE WORLD, having to deal with a NO-NONSENSE "by the book" social worker (played wonderfully by played by Naomi Harris) who _repeatedly_ reminds him that his (perhaps even legitimate) "issues" aside, _she's_ present at the supervised meetings between him and his daughter NOT for _his sake_ but for _his daughter's_ SAFETY. Those scenes involving Billy Hope, his daughter (who after all has lost her mother too) and the social worker MAKE THE MOVIE FOR ME and can serve as an INSTRUCTIVE and even POSITIVE example for all kinds of adults ANGRY AT LIFE (often even partly legitimately) in situations similar to his. (And in "my day job" I do come across plenty):
Yes, one may have legitimate right to be angry, disappointed, etc. But it's never "all about us" and "The System" is there, above all, to protect the innocent -- "Hope's" _daughter_. Wow ;-)
Anyway, this is a Hollywood film (and even a classic "Descent into Hell" Western Civ. story), so it has to end well. And ... (mild spoiler alert) it does.
So, even if we've seen variations of this story in the past, it still makes a very good film that even "moves the ball" (with regard to those court supervised "parent-child" meetings). So good job folks! Very good job!
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