The Great Depression was a thunderclap that left millions of Americans hat-in-hand, and had it been more brittle and sustained, it could have reignited our nation’s long-dormant revolutionary spirit. For all its significance, though, this period in history is somewhat under-represented in the film canon. The only evocative depression image from American cinema that comes immediately to my mind is the solitary black sharecropper in Bonnie & Clyde, impotently shooting holes in a bank foreclosure sign.
I was more interested in that angle of Cinderella Man than the boxing angle, but sadly, neither angle is very fulfilling. This is a by-the-numbers true story of Jim Braddock, a washed-up Irish palooka in the mid-30s who, after some middling success as a boxer, broke his hand, was de-licensed, and became a dockworker. The early prize money was lost in the stock market, and his family was on the verge of joining the growing breadlines. It was somewhere around this point that Braddock got an unlikely shot at the title and walked away with it.
After the Beautiful Mind debacle, we aren’t really prepared to accept everything we see in Cinderella Man at face value, but from what I know, no skeletons have been broomed away. It is as it was, as the Pope said.