Film Critique: Cinderella Man
October 29, 1929 known as black Tuesday, was a day that drastically changed many Americans lives. Black Tuesday was the day the stock market crashed and was the start of the Great Depression. The great depression caused many men to lose their jobs, husbands to abandon their families, children to go hungry, and suicide rates to increase. The great depression lasted about 10 years and literally was life or death for the many people that were trying to get through it. Directed by Ron Howard, Cinderella Man follows the life of Jim Braddock, who goes from having it all at the beginning of the movie to losing all his possessions and life savings. During this time, Jim faced many trials and tribulations that tested his faith, his courage, and his strength.
At the beginning of the movie, James J. Braddock was a boxer rising to the top. He had it all, his career earning good money, a beautiful home, 3 children; James, Howard and Rosemarie, and a beautiful wife named Mae. All that changed on October 29, 1929, when the stock market crashed, and he lost it all. He thought by investing in Taxi cabs and stocks, his family would be set and could live comfortably for the rest of their lives. Little did he know that that would be the most difficult times his family would experience. The great depression had two major causes and many minor causes; the two major causes was the unequal distribution of wealth and the extensive stock market speculation. The great depression caused an astonishing 13 million Americans left without a job and about 26,000 businesses to fail. Jim’s ability to box gave him an advantage until he got injured and broke his hand causing him to lose a fight and his boxing license revoked. Even with a broken hand, Jim knew he had to continue to find a way to support his family. He went to the docks every morning, hoping and praying he would be one of the lucky men that would get picked to work for the day. One day after not being chosen he returned home from the docks and was told that his oldest son James had stolen salami from the meat market. That particular scene showed the kind of man that Jim Braddock really was. Even though money was tight, and food was very scarce, he grabbed the salami, grabbed his son and walked straight back to the market to return it. His son then revealed to him the reason he stole it and a pact was made between Jim and James which promised that no matter what Jim would never send his kids away and separate the family. As time passed Jim continued working at the docks and met a man named Mike. One day after work Mike invites Jim for a beer and both men talk about how bad the depression is and how FDR plans to end it. Mike was a successful stockbroker who like Jim lost everything. Later in the movie, Mike gets fired and overwhelmed with his wife and newborn decides to leave home to go live in a cardboard box in Central Park with many other unemployed, homeless people which was known as “Hooverville.” Hooverville was named after President Herbert Hoover who was the President at the time of the depression and was widely blamed for it. As work slows down Jim and his wife Mae struggle tremendously to provide food and electricity for the children. One day Mae returns home to their electricity being shut off, Mae sends her children off with relatives due to a sickness that was threatening James’s health. Jim returns home and at this point realizes he needs help and can no longer do it alone. A disappointed Jim seeks help from his former boxing colleagues and pleads for help to have his children returned him. He also gets help from the Emergency Relief Department and between both collected just enough to get his children back and the electricity turned back on. Jim was given another chance to enter the ring when his former manager Joe Gould visits him and gives him another shot to fight.
Joe Gould played a very important role in the movie. He never gave up on Jim and stayed loyal to him. Jim was not only his client but also his friend. It was Joe’s persistence that gave Jim another chance at his dream. Joe was also facing the troubles of the depression but never gave up and believed in Jim’s potential.
Mae Braddock was a loving mother and caring wife. She always stood by her husband and supported everything he did. She never once complained or yelled at him for not having enough money to cover the bills. She continued to believe in her husband even though she did not fully support his fighting career she was the glue that held the family together. She experienced some tough times having to see her children suffer from being sick, being hungry, and not being able to afford to attend school for a while. Mae also saw many husbands abandoning their families which was known as the “poor mans divorce.” That was a very common thing during the great depression, men just could not take the stress of not being able to provide for their families. Many called it the “invisible scar”, men felt like they had failed their wives and children and wanted to take the easy way out. The Braddock family lived in a tiny one-bedroom apartment but did whatever they can to make their kids happy and keep the burden of the depression hidden.
With a shot at the heavyweight championship held by Max Baer a possibility, Braddock continues to win. Out of a sense of pride, he uses a portion of his prize money to pay back money to the government given to him while unemployed. When his rags to riches story gets out, the sportswriter Damon Runyon dubs him “The Cinderella Man”, and before long Braddock comes to represent the hopes and aspirations of the American public struggling with the Depression