Oct 18, 2010
secretariat saves his own movie, because he's that awesome
You guys, I know. If you still visit this blog, you probably wonder just where I went and if I still read horse books and view horse movies and torture myself endlessly with their varying shades of something we might call "quality."
I would like to sit here and tell you that I have a huge back load of books and movies to review, but I would be lying. The best excuse I can come up with is...I just haven't been trying very hard? Yes, that pretty much sums it up.
Seriously, that and I needed a break. It was glorious.
Now, that said, I did run off and see Secretariat on opening weekend. I have pondered whether or not I liked it since. I never really cared about Penny Chenery, and I can say with some seriousness that I still don't really care about Penny Chenery. Am I a little dismayed that they should have called this movie Chenery: Housewife Turned Inspirational Rogue? Somewhat, yes. Because this movie is basically Chenery: Housewife Turned Inspirational Rogue masquerading as a movie about Secretariat because, as the movie's makers probably figured out well before me, Penny Chenery? Yeah, not so much.
Also, it's a Disney movie. In a way that you'd wish Disney would dial it down a whole, whole lot. I half expected a fairy to come glittering out of nowhere and tap Secretariat with a magic wand emitting golden sparkle showers, that's how Disney this thing is. Diane Lane doesn't know how to converse with people other than to snap at them or give mini speeches about the human condition. It's annoying, and I think if this character existed in real life I would loathe her. I'm pretty sure the real Penny Chenery would loathe her if forced to spend more than ten minutes alone with her. It's just this fake, golden, pasted on smile quality about Diane Lane that drives me absolutely nuts that she uses to the point of absurdity here. It is Disney at its most sentimental mixed with the hippie movement and gospel music.
And then for some reason little of it matters because Secretariat comes prancing along and in one minute of galloping or standing and staring he completely wipes away how annoyed I am with all the sap. Which is amusing to me because the movie spends a good long while making underdogs of the people around Secretariat in order to make Secretariat marketable, totally underestimating the fact that Secretariat, the brilliant animal at the heart of it all, who was so legendary that people didn't know how to make a movie about him, would wind up saving his own movie just by standing there looking awesome.
Secretariat is the pure anti-underdog sports story. People love him because he was amazing, not because he was some little nothing who overcame obstacles and blah blah blah Seabiscuit blah. No one really needed Penny Chenery's story to tell Secretariat's. So, yes, this is my long winded pondering as to why this was the path the film people took.
But whatever. Secretariat. He was awesome. The horses portraying him were fabulous. John Malkovich was amusing as the French-shrieking Lucien Laurin. Do I wish they'd not dumbed down the Belmont Stakes race call? YES, because I cannot fathom why you'd want to do that to the moment that cemented the horse as a superstar. (Two, Four, Six! Ten, twelve, fourteen! I can count, too! All day! It's fabulous and totally stupid!) The gospel music I didn't have a huge problem with, as the movie was really pushing the God's Horse angle. In so doing I think it lost the People's Horse (the crush of interest on anything other than Vietnam or Watergate, which was Secretariat) angle, which arguably was one of the great reasons most people know the name Secretariat over Affirmed or Seattle Slew.
But, well, you can't expect to take a story like Secretariat, plunge it in Disney, and expect to get it all right in an hour and a half. I still enjoyed a lot of it, and I'll watch it again eventually.