Anyone entertaining doubts about how good Russell Crowe is as an actor should watch Ron Howard’s Cinderella Man. In it, Crowe shows that the Oscar he got for Gladiator wasn’t a fluke. He is totally captivating as Jim Braddock, a boxer with integrity.
The characterization is excellent. The triumvirate of Crowe, Renee Zellweger and Paul Giamatti is excellent and each of them was able to flesh out the roles of Braddock, his wife Mae and his manager and promoter, respectively. Giamatti is particularly impressive as Braddock’s manager/promoter. It is no exaggeration that Giamatti’s character provided the impetus that kept the film moving and made Braddock’s character so sympathetic. I particularly liked how Giamatti’s character would give Crowe’s character insight into how to beat particular boxers.
I’ve never particularly liked boxing movies (with the exception of Rocky I , Raging Bull and Million Dollar Baby) as they tend to be formulaic—good man down in the dumps and overcomes adversity, happy ending. But even if Cinderella Man does hew to this formula, Ron Howard’s direction, Akiva Goldman’s script and the triumvirate’s acting is just so excellent that the entire film transcends the formula and becomes the shot in the arm that we so desperately need today: an opportunity to feel good about ourselves and about humanity and an opportunity to be hopeful.
No glass slippers involved here but there is a "happy ever after" and something that's truly something magical about this movie. Go watch it.