The essence of the characters – Maggie Fitzgerald in Million Dollar Baby and Betty Ann Waters in Conviction – are completely different. Hilary Swank plays both the characters in the movies. In case of both the films, it seemed that the characters were right for Hilary Swank. The tomboyish character of Maggie is strong both physically and psychologically. On the other hand, Betty Ann is a strong-willed character.
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Maggie Fitzgerald is a hillbilly who is poor, works as a waiter, and steals food to put together some savings (Swank, Eastwood and Freeman, Million Dollar Baby). Yet, she finds time and strength to train to become a professional boxer. Maggie is destitute, alone, and leads a non-significant life.
She yearns to become something special and so continually pressures Frankie Dunn to be her trainer. Swank plays the character to perfection. Never, for a moment, did she loose control of the reserve and composer of a woman who had faced all the hardships of life. There was no place for emotional outburst in her performance.
Betty Ann is a courageous working class single mother of two, who fights her way through law school to free her brother who, wrongly convicted of murder (Swank, Rockwell and Leo, Conviction). The objective of Betty Ann was to free her brother from being wrongly convicted for life. She shows courage and conviction to exonerate her brother. Her primary obstacles were her incomplete high school degree and her brother’s violent police record.
Her successes were marred with hurdles, all failures in her effort were due to her, and her brother’s past haunted her. She overcame the obstacle of her inefficiency as a person by passing through law school to be legally able to defend her brother. It took her sixteen years to become a lawyer and then petition the evidence to be reexamined. However, the evidence apparently, was destroyed after ten years. This added to the complex nature of the case.
However, after a lot of trouble, Betty managed to get hold of the evidence, and the DNA samples of the perpetrator’s did not match her brothers. However, the euphoria was short-run, as soon the DA’s office declared that there was enough evidence to hold her brother as an accomplice. Nevertheless, Betty’s conviction of her brother’s innocence helps her to fight her way through the system to acquit him.
Maggie as a character is introvert but she communicates strongly with her coach Frankie. She is responsive to the instructions and acts more of a man than a woman in the film. On the other hand, Betty Ann is an emotional person, who is essentially a woman. She laughs, cries, and expresses anger whenever the situation be so. Hilary Swank played two very different characters with equal ease.
Hilary Swank had completely altered her personality and body movements to portray to the roles of Betty Ann and Maggie. In Maggie, she internalized a boxer, who was strong and masculine, with little demonstration of emotions. On the other hand, in Betty Ann she played an emotional sister who loves her brother and sacrifices her life to exonerate him. She changes her voice to suit the characters – Maggie with a husky, masculine tone of speaking and with Betty Ann, a woman soft but strong willed.
In both the character, Swank fitted perfectly well. It almost appeared that two people played the roles rather than one. Her movements, manner of speaking, gestures, and body language altered to suit the need of the characters, never overdoing it.
Conviction. Dir. Tony Goldwyn. Perf. Hilary Swank, Sam Rockwell and Melissa Leo.: Omega Entertainment. 2010. DVD.
Million Dollar Baby. Dir. Clint Eastwood. Perf. Hilary Swank, Clint Eastwood and Morgan Freeman.: Warner Bros. 2004. DVD.