Secretariat Movie Review
SECRETARIAT: NOT ENOUGH DRAMA
Secretariat is the story of what a lot of people consider to be the most successful race horse in history. And that in itself is important. But the problem the film has is that the journey to his title is not dramatic enough. Meaning, it doesn't capture your heart with a deep struggle. And the struggle his owner Penny Chenery goes through doesn't bring the emotions that it should.
Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) is a housewife and it is 1969. Her mother has just passed away and her father Chris Chenery (Scott Glenn) has dementia. Her dad lives on a horse ranch and doesn't have the mental capacity to take care of it. Penny steps in even though she doesn't have the knowledge or experience. She immediately takes charge and goes about keeping the ranch running and wins a horse from an annual coin toss that takes place between her daddy and the richest man in the country (James Cromwell). Penny has plans for the foal this horse births and starts putting together a team to train him. She first finds trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich), who puts up a fight but eventually comes around. Then she is referred to jockey Ronnie Turcotte (Otto Thorworth). This horse, who they call Big Red but will eventually be known as Secretariat, surprises them all and shows that he has the strength and spirit to go all the way.
Secretariat is the true story of the horse that won the triple crown in 1973. His owner, Penny Chenery, was a housewife who didn't know much about horse racing. And she was not taken seriously because of that and the fact that she was a woman. But the film doesn't put enough obstacles in the underdogs way to make it a worthy journey. When Penny pushes forward, she meets little to no resistance. Secretariat was simply a horse that needed to be believed in. But he received everything he needed. All of this should be touching, but it isn't. Everything seems to be too easy. Diane Lane as Penny Chenery is not trans formative. Yes, she has the excitement and perseverance. But its hard to take her seriously, like she is always close to throwing a temper tantrum if she doesn't get her way. There is a scene where she has almost a staring contest with the horse that made me want to giggle. Much of the scenery has a been there done that feel with same kind of camera angles and shots that has been seen in movies like Seabiscuit. The most entertaining visual are John Malkovich's hats and leisure suits. Its a guide on what not to wear in the 70s. And Diane Lane's costumes and makeup age her but not gracefully.
Secretariat should have focused on the heart of the animal rather than having it as a side note.
Secretariat lacks oomph. It has a story worthy of being told and a talented cast of veteran actors. But it never touches your heart the way a film like this should.