It’s easy to look at Secretariat as just another movie about a horse. And it’s easy to make fun of it for being just another movie about a horse. But believe me when I say that Secretariat is so much better than just another movie about a horse. Seriously. Blew my mind. Maybe it’s because the characters are based on real people or maybe it’s because it’s a movie about the best racehorse in the history of racehorses.
Secretariat packs some serious star power. Diane Lane (Under the Tuscan Sun and Unfaithful) plays Penny Chenery, Secretariat’s owner, and John Malcovich (Burn After Reading) stars as the horse’s trainer, Lucian Laurin. It was directed by Randall Wallace, the writer behind Braveheart and the director of The Man in the Iron Mask).
True to the subject matter, the pace is quick and urgent. The first two years of Secretariat’s life pass in a five minute montage and we are pushed into the high stakes world of horse racing. For a story with a relatively well known ending (spoiler alert! Secretariat is really fast), I was on the edge of my seat for each racing scene.
John Malcovich and Diane Lane are the highlights of this film. Malcovich brought a colorful character to life. And I mean literally colorful. His first outfit was a hot pink shirt paired with equally loud plaid Bermuda shorts. But Diane Lane doesn’t allow herself to be upstaged by a man in pink clothes. Pardon my white-ness, but girlfriend is fierce.
There was a lot of hype about how Diane Lane’s character was a woman in a male-dominated industry, and I have to be honest: I was worried that the film would take a half-hearted stab at making her a strong woman and leave it at that. But rest assured! Penny Chenery kicks butt and takes names, from the moment she strolled into a gentleman’s club to take a meeting to the final press conference when she took a quip about being a housewife with grace and pride. In short, Penny Chenery is my new hero.
Secretariat is a Disney movie, so the film is scattered with trite lessons like “be yourself” and “always follow your dreams.” The soundtrack was also inexplicably filled with old school spirituals and hymns, but this doesn’t detract from the story.
This movie should be required viewing for any girl under 10. Not only will they be psyched about the fact that it’s a movie about a horse, but they’ll also see a hard-core woman being hard-core. In addition to being a great family film, this is a good, solid rainy day movie. Is it worth the outrageous amount of money movie theaters charge? I would say yes. There’s nothing quite like watching a horse thunder across a huge screen to win the Kentucky Derby. Trust me: this is worth the price of admission.