SECRETARIAT (Randall Wallace)
It is always fun to watch inspirational sports movies, because at the end there’s always the anticipation of a great triumph. Sports being a very vast genre, directors need to shape their film based on a chosen sport and shape it in a way that is unique from the rest of the pack.
SECRETARIAT is another entry in the horse racing sub category, preceded by Gary Ross’s SEABISCUIT and that famous Elizabeth Taylor movie debut which earned the attention of audiences worldwide. What makes SECRETARIAT work, aside from it being a true story is the captivating performances of seasoned leads John Malkovich and most specially, Diane Lane.
If you’re not a fan of horse racing (and I am not), most certainly you will not have known about the history of Secretariat the horse. I didn’t know about his winning streak and hall of fame status, and chances are most audiences share the same fate, so in order for SECRETARIAT the movie to work, the filmmakers really ought to dish up some entertaining races coupled with a backstory about the humans involved.
Diane Lane portrays Penny Chenery, whom as a kid adored horses, and is now left with a decision on what to do with her family’s horses now that her mother’s dead, and her father succumbing into depression. Refusing to bow down to failure and not taking the easy way out, Penny managed to overcome the impossible and proving everybody who doubted her and Secretariat wrong.
Secretariat the horse is a showstopper itself. The races are quite tightly-filmed, where you feel every streak of dirt, every breath of the horse, and every pulse-pounding moment, and Secretariat shines during these moments. Most of the time I felt pity for the horse because I can feel his exhaustion; but then again horse racing is a sport I have yet to understand.
What SECRETARIAT manages to triumph aside from the horse races, is the place of women in contemporary society. The film takes place in the 70s, where hippies abound, war in Vietnam is going on, and women are still struggling against gender equality. By emerging victorious at the end, Diane Lane as Penny Chenery made another impression in cinema regarding women as strong figures, equally important and capable as men, and just as determined.
Not to spoil the fun, but this is a Walt Disney family movie so this is exactly the kind of film you’d expect. I just wished that there were more scenes detailing Penny’s ordeal with her family during the times that she is hands on with Secretariat. I know her family in the end accepted that she needed to do what she did, but the story would have been more colourful if we got the grimy details. But that’s just me, and like what I said this is a Walt Disney movie.