I was expecting Cinderella Man - Ron Howard's Depression-era boxing flick - to be a cookie cutter, feel-good period piece. And I was partly right. It is a fairly straight forward period piece. And it is a film that leaves you on a feel good note (sorry if I spoiled it for everyone), but given the story of James Braddock, I don't think it could be any other way. But that's not a bad thing.
While it could have been a piece of melodramatic fluff, Russell Crowe - who is perhaps the consumate actor of his generation and consistantly excellent in film after film - never lets the role fall into caricature. He portrays Braddock as a honest family man, but still a real human being. Add to it the supporting actors Renée Zellweger and Paul Giamatti, who should finally get his Oscar that's been eluding him for two years despite amazing performances in Sideways and American Splendor, and we have a real acting lovers film. Even smaller roles by Bruce McGill (Collateral) and Craig Bierko as the clowning, yet vicious Max Baer, shine in this film.
Ron Howard returns to form after The Missing dissapointed me so greatly a couple of years ago. But this is a solid delivery. Howard is not an extremly flashy director, but he never gets in the way of the story and does a solid job here.
All in all, Cinderella Man is a good, solid film that outdid my expectations, just like Jim Braddock would have.