Film fails to capture great horserace
October 28, 2010
The conference championship cross country race is coming up this weekend, so I figured it would do my competitive spirit good to seek out an inspirational film for this week’s review. That and my brake line exploded on the freeway last Tuesday, so I pretty much had to see whatever was playing in town. In any case, It almost seemed destined that I see and review Disney’s latest “underdog” movie, “Secretariat.”
“Secretariat” tells the story of Penny Chenery-Tweedy (Diane Lane), a 1970’s housewife and heiress to a horse farm and breeding operation. Consequently, she finds herself in the possession of the single-greatest racehorse to ever urinate like a burst fire hydrant and dump like a backhoe.
The film begins with Penny receiving the news of her mother’s death. She flies out to Virginia for the funeral and wake where we are introduced to her brother, Hollis (Dylan Baker), and her aging and mentally clouded father (Scott Glen).
With her mother passed on and her father incapable of running the farm, Penny and her brother are forced to assume the responsibility of maintaining her father’s estate. It’s not long before Mr. Chenery succumbs to old age, and Penny inherits all the Farm’s horses per her father’s will.
She quickly gets herself immersed in the world of horse racing and doesn’t take no sass from nobody as she re-ignites the farm’s triple-crown aspirations when she discovers that one of the mares on the farm might be pregnant with a horse of unusually potent bloodlines.
She decides to forgo some of her housewife duties, which in the 70’s, apparently consisted of folding laundry and reassuring your wanna-be hippy daughter that she isn’t throwing her future away by hanging out with stupid high school kids in trench coats and berets to focus on her new found passion for horseracing which meets the disapproval of her husband and brother. She never gives up and goes for the gold and all that jazz.
Eventually she hires a cooky horse trainer (John Malkovich) and a fearless Jockey (Otto Thorwarth), and they hit the racing circuit. One of the major things that bothered me, about this movie was the notion that Penny’s femininity is something she needs to overcome, which is amplified by all of the male characters being presented as sexist.
Frankly, the writing was just bad in general. Much of the dialogue seemed so wholesome and unrealistic that the interactions came off as awkward.
Penny offers her son the opportunity to witness a horse giving birth: “Really!? Can I!?” he says with Beaver Cleaver type innocent enthusiasm. Yeah, I don’t think so.
Every one of the characters are portrayed as either saintly or incredibly shallow.
The thing that upset me most was that Disney owned the rights to one of the most amazing stories of athletic prowess and determination in history.
They sent it through the Disney movie assembly line, and they cast it out like fishing net to rake in as much profit as possible, rather than using the right resources to make it into the movie I think it could have been. It’s not the worst movie ever, but all Disney does is present a polished-up and flashy live-action story book that says, “Here. We warmed your heart. Come to Disney World.”
I get goosebumps from watching the 3 minute 1973 Belmont Stakes video on YouTube, and that’s how I suggest you experience the story of Secretariat.
Anthony Orlando is a math major and physics minor. He runs for the UW-River Falls cross country team. He once met Dan Auerbach and is a minor celebrity in Malaysia.