The last thing Hollywood needs is another play-it-by-the-convenient clich” boxing film with a protagonist who will rise out of obscurity, deal with an ugly paternal conflict and then show “em all in the ring. But “Girlfight,” the latest such film, has two distinct advantages: 1) the winner of the 2000 Sundance Film Festival and proud bearer of a no-name cast, the movie clearly isn’t Hollywood’s and 2) all the clich’s imaginable seem to become insignificant in light of the main character’s set of X chromosomes, something previously unseen in a widely distributed punch-throwing flick.
And while some might whine that “Girlfight” sucks all the maternal milk out of the Title-9 predicament Diana (Michelle Rodriguez) faces, this critic submits that if any less attention were given to the matter, the film would come across as being borderline-suspicious. The sad truth is that although Christy Martin and the daughter of Muhammad Ali are pioneering the sport, silver screen audiences are still more accustomed to seeing their boxing heroes in nothing but a pair of shorts. One needn’t look further than a recent flurry of such pictures, including Jimmy Smits
Price of Glory
“and Woody Harrelson”s”
Play it to the Bone
“alongside the more historic”
“from Kirk Douglas and”
“from Denzel Washington to realize the trend.
Studio: Screen Gems
Release Date: September 29, 2000
Running Time: 2 Hours
Director: Karyn Kusama
Producers: Sarah Green, Martha Griffin and Maggie Renzi
Writer: Karyn Kusama
Cast: Michelle Rodriguez, Alicia Ashley and Paul Calderon
Of the four recent films, “Price of Glory” is most similar to “Girlfight” as Diana struggles in the ring to make something out of herself while a less-than-helpful father (Paul Calderon) in a less-than-respectful position does little to encourage her. Although, “Glory” put its emphasis on that very parent while “Girlfight” actually sees him disappear about two-thirds of the way through the production thankfully relieving audiences before the clich does become too noticeable.
The environment Diana copes with in school, although not as dark and frightening as the project she calls home, is certainly not the “American Pieish” high school that Hollywood has long asked audiences to buy into. Despite not being quite as stark as the truthful image that Larry Clark painted in his under-appreciated “Kids,” the teenage tendencies and environment here tell few lies. Even the racial and ethnic tensions, although never addressed on screen, can be felt through the predominantly Hispanic cast in a manner similar to distributor Screen Gems last film, “Black and White.”
Director of Photography Patrick Cady helps express Diana’s isolation from society as he spends the earliest moments of the film framing her to the right side of all close-up shots and the rest of the cast to the left. Then, mid-production he starts putting her on the left and all else on the right. Bringing things full circle, he resumes his original ways towards the end of the movie. Whenever Diana seems most hurt or excited, though, an exception seems to be made and she finds herself in the middle of the frame. Perhaps this speaks to some sort of a boxing metaphor as she dances back and forth dodging punches, but is forced to come in from time to time to either throw her best shot or be the victim of her opponent’s.
Title 9 was ratified in 1972 and 28 years later we are finally seeing a major release on the silver screen about one such woman’s high school sport. As the summer of 2000 wound down, “The Replacements” showed audiences an all-male sporting cast while “Bring it On” idealized an all-female sideline cheering squad and the gender-challenging “But I’m a Cheerleader” was greeted with relative ignorance thanks in large to a much smaller release. Heavy clich’s may be easy to criticize and may oftentimes ruin films, yet they all seem like a hopeless featherweight when made to spar with a movie that many bold feminists will likely declare groundbreaking.