After his prizefighter abandons him, an oldfashioned trainer takes on a stubborn woman to train her for a championship challenge.
First, thank you for posting a logline for the movie, Nir Shelter. Come to think about it, there’s a lot to think about in this film. But I gotta respectfully disagree on what constitutes the inciting incident in this film. Because:
1] If the male boxer leaves Frankie, but Maggie doesn’t approach Frankie and asked to be trained, there’s no plot The inciting incident is an event that MUST occur to , well , incite, kick off the plot. If it doesn’t occur, there’s no plot. The script could just as well have been written without the male fighter dumping Frankie. It could have established Frankie as a washed up manager with no talent wanting to train under him. Whatever his status quo would be, as long as Maggie asks to be trained there’s a plot.
2] The SOP is for the inciting incident to occur within the 1st half of the 1st Act — by the 15th page. I’ve got a copy of the script, too, and on page 5 Maggie approaches Frankie, asks to be trained. That’s early — the usual plot point for the inciting incident is around page 15 — but no violation of the SOP. For the inciting incident to occur on Page 27 is.
3] The male fighter dumping Frankie is what I call (for lack of a better phrase) a push off the fence beat — an event that compels a character to get off the fence and commit to the course of action that sets the plot in play. The inciting incident is described as a “Call to Adventure”. And the SOP is for the protagonist to initially refuse, resist that call. Rather than action, there is inaction — the protagonist hems and haws, comes up excuses not to act, to sit on the fence. It’s the phase of the 1st Act Blake Snyder calls “Debate and Decision”.
Up until page 27, Frankie has rebuffed Maggie’s “Call to Adventure”. His handy excuse is that he’s already training a promising male fighter — why waste time on a woman? After the male fighter dumps him, he has no excuse, no options. And Maggie no longer has a competitor for Frankie’s time.
>> don’t you think it would be best to describe the inciting incident of the main character (Frankie) and the action of the protagonist (Maggie) as part of the same story?
Hmm. As we know, the standard procedure is for the logline to be framed from the pov of one character, the designated protagonist. I have elected to frame the plot from Maggie’s pov.
But it’s complicated. Let me put it this way: That Frankie is played by one of the most popular and enduring actors of our generation can distort our perception such that we think that Frankie must be the singular protagonist because Clint Eastwood plays 2nd fiddle to no one, right? But what if the role had been played with a 2nd tier actor, someone usually cast in supporting roles? I venture the default perception would be that Hilary Swank’s character is and must be the protagonist.
Let me toss another movie into the mix for contrast: “Working Girl” (1988). Clearly, the protagonist is Tess played by Melanie Griffith. But who leads off the credit scroll? Harrison Ford (who doesn’t appear on screen until the beginning of the 2nd Act) and Sigourney Weaver — both “A” list actors. Melanie Griffith comes 3rd because she was, at best, only a “B” list actor.
No matter. The script is written before it is cast. And in the “Working Girl” script (and movie), Tess unambiguously owns the story. She is the prime mover of the inciting incident and she’s in the driver’s seat of the plot from FADE IN: to FADE OUT:. She yields it to no one.
And it was Melanie Griffith who got nominated — and won — the Oscar for Best Actress, not her “A” list co-stars.
So who is in the driver’s seat of “Million Dollar Baby”? I would say that initially Maggie is because she is the prime mover of the inciting incident in the 1st Act. But unless Frankie eventually agrees to train her, there’s no plot. So I suppose one could say he takes the driver’s seat when he finally agrees to train her.
So for the plot to begin to happen (let alone play out) requires the actions and decisions of 2 characters, not one.
And Frankie is certainly in the driver’s seat in the 3rd Act after Maggie is paralyzed. Only he can make the hard choice that brings the plot to it’s pathetic denouement. (And we all know that in the 3rd Act, the driver’s seat is assigned to the singular protagonist — that’s his showcase moment to finally succeed, or ultimately fail.)
Finally, fwiw, both Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood earned Oscar nominations for Best Actress and Best Actor in the same film. What does that say about how the pros in the movie business perceived their roles?
Anyway , it seems to me that this is a rare film where two characters rotate taking control of the wheel — the spec script and final film are rare instances of a dual protagonist plot, one that works.
Again, thanks for posting a logline on this film. It offers a lot to think about.
It’s been a while since I’ve seen the film but does’t he eventually agree to train her because she keeps badgering him and eventually, with some persuasion from Morgan Freeman (who’s been giving her pointers on the side), he gives in? Not sure how that works as an inciting incident though…
He has no interest in training her because she’s a woman. Without specifying that his prizefighter is male I think an important aspect of the story is lost.
I agree that Clint Eastwood’s the main character although a case could be made for a dual protagonist given how intertwined their stories are.
An interesting choice, Nir Shelter.
I am inclined to think this is a film where there is a bifurcation in the plot in that one character “owns” the objective goal and another character “owns” the subjective character arc.
It seems to me that Maggie, the female fighter, owns the objective goal. It’s her Big Dream , one that she has to persuade a reluctant Frankie to help her achieve. (In dialectical contrast, it’s Frankie who suffers from the Big Nightmare: he remains haunted by what he did while coaching “Scrap”, the narrator; that is, going against his better judgement he let “Scrap”, continue to a fight resulting in Scrap losing his vision in one eye which KO’ed his boxing career.)
Maggie has to persuade Frankie to take her on, to help her achieve her objective goal. Around the MPR, going for a championship game is her objective. She has to persuade him again to overcome his reservations (because of his Big Nightmare).
Maggie is a constant character in that, unlike Frankie, she has no reservations, she never wavers in literally fighting for her objective goal, in making her Big Dream come true — until the last act after a cheap shot taken by her opponent in the championship fight, renders her permanently paralyzed from the neck down.
In contrast, Frankie is the one who has the strongest character arc. He’s the one who has to change his opinion about women fighting, the character who, ultimately, has to confront the greatest moral dilemma.
Because of this bifurcation, I’m inclined to see this a plot dual protagonist. Also because, imho, the relationship between the two is the most interesting dynamic in the film.
Now, then. for the logline, I am inclined to drop the event of the manager losing his male prizefighter. It’s not the inciting incident. Thee inciting incident is Maggie approaching Frankie, asking him to train her. A “Call to Adventure” which, of course, he refuses to accept.
Finally, one could apply an adjective phrase that describes her defining characteristic/strength which her case is stubborn determination. But I am inclined to describe her in terms of her undeserved fortune plus an attribute about a liability — one that adds some savory bait to the story hook: her age.
A 30 year old woman trapped in a dead end job persuades an old school boxing manager to train her to become a championship contender.
Whatever, I would definitely nix the term “collaborate”. Boxing managers don’t collaborate; they coach, they train.