Tuesday, September 14, 2010
'Secretariat' to Win
For the most part, I can usually count on horse-racing films to be both heart-breaking and glorious. Heart-breaking because so much is at stake, and glorious because watching those gorgeous animals inevitably barrel across a finish line never gets old.
What I didn't know about the story of Secretariat, the horse that won the Triple Crown in 1973, is that there was a very strong woman behind his success. That's the story Walt Disney Pictures tells in its movie "Secretariat," starring a steely yet graceful Diane Lane as his owner, Penny Chenery.
It was the perfect mother-daughter movie to see with CC, who kept trying to say "Secretariat" until she got it down perfectly. We caught an advanced screening in Santa Monica (the movie opens October 8), courtesy of the Los Angeles International Children's Film Festival, which begins next month.
In movies like this one, it's usually the horse that's the underdog ... so to speak. In "Secretariat," it's Penny -- aka The Housewife.
Not only does she have to deal with all sorts of sexism and being outright dismissed as not having any real "horse sense" (sorry), she also has to balance her work life (overseeing Secretariat) in Virginia with her family at home in Denver. As a result, her husband (played by Dylan Walsh) ends up feeling as if he's been pushed to the sidelines, essentially losing first or even second place to a winning Secretariat.
While Penny navigates those rough waters, she's buoyed by her team of trainer Lucien Laurin (played with eccentric verve and humor by John Malkovich), assistant Miss Ham (the formidable Margo Martindale) and groom Eddie Sweat (played with real tenderness by Nelsan Ellis).
But it's watching Secretariat essentially burn up the race track that really gets hearts pounding. What adds to that thumping is knowing what it took to get him there -- the sacrifices, the gambles, the determination of a woman who found something she was really good at and ran with it.