good guys, bad guys

I saw CINDERELLA MAN with E the other night and SISTERHOOD OF THE TRAVELLING PANTS with my sister the other day. What struck me about both movies was that each revolved around truly decent people. So much so, in SISTERHOOD, that my sister, who works in education and social work and is finishing up her MA at Pepperdine, couldn’t buy into the world of the story: “The girlfriends all got along, they’re teenage girls yet there was no backstabbing and no one was ever catty, the boyfriends were all really nice guys, the father character made mistakes but he was also a nice guy in the end–”

“He was kind of a weenie, though,” I said.

“Yeah, he was a weenie, but he was decent. Everybody was just so nice and decent. I got depressed, sitting there and watching it, thinking, The real world isn’t like that.”

In his review of CINDERELLA MAN, Ebert gives it a big thumbs up (unlike, say, David Edelstein) and reflects on the decency of Jim Braddock’s character: “The need [the movie] fills is for a full-length portrait of a good man. Most serious movies live in a world of cynicism and irony, and most good-hearted movie characters live in bad movies.” I thought that was an interesting and apt observation.

My big disappointment about CINDERELLA MAN happened after the fact, when I went online to find some of the truth behind the movie. It turns out the most interesting character of all the people portrayed was probably Max Baer who in the movie is reduced into a two-dimensional capital-v Villian: the kind of bad guy who, if he had a mustache, would constantly be twirling it. Did the demands of the story truly require that Bauer’s complexity get stamped out the way it did? After all, this isn’t STAR WARS we’re talking about — it didn’t have to be the absolute evil of Max vs. the absolute good of Braddock.


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