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Going For The Glory In Secretariat | J.P. Langston

10/09/10 | by JP | Categories: Films

Link: http://www.sidewalkstv.com/specialfeatures/movies/secretariat.html

Can a widely known story about a winning horse make an interesting story as a feature film? Diane Lane and John Malkovich lead the cast as director Randall Walace bring “Secretariat” to the big screen.

Follow up:

Rating: PG
U.S. Release Date: October 8, 2010
Cast: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Dylan Walsh, James Cromwell, Kevin Connolly
Director: Randall Wallace

Studio Synopsis:

Based on the remarkable true story, “Secretariat” chronicles the spectacular journey of the 1973 Triple Crown winner. Housewife and mother Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) agrees to take over her ailing father’s Virginia-based Meadow Stables, despite her lack of horse-racing knowledge. Against all odds, Chenery—with the help of veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich)—manages to navigate the male-dominated business, ultimately fostering the first Triple Crown winner in 25 years and what may be the greatest racehorse of all time.

(L-R) Diane Lane and John Malkovich in "SECRETARIAT."
Photo: John Bramley ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

J.P.'s Take:
Thoroughbred racing was never of any interest to me, and I couldn't understand why many people were so drawn to its flame. In passing, I may have watched a couple of races here and there, but never really stopped to pay attention to care about what's happening. And I've heard the name, Secretariat, uttered even in my day, yet I never knew the real story behind the legendary stallion. So I wasn't really amped about wanted to see this movie in the first place…that is until I started to hear bits and pieces of the story come from the mouths of those who grew up watching history in the making.

“Secretariat” is the type of movie that screams triumph in the face of adversity. That triumphant spirit is due in part to the main character, Penny Chenery-Tweedy (played by Diane Lane), whose drive and diligence gave her enough fuel to keep on her journey. Her every word and every step taken was done with confidence and courage. Being the only woman in the thoroughbred racing business, Penny was stacked with numerous odds against her:

#1) Penny was the only woman in a highly male dominated sport and business, for which she had to prove that she was up to the task of competing with the men.

#2) Penny really had no idea how difficult it would be to keep her father's ranch running smoothly; let alone groom a foal to become a winning horse.

And #3) Excluding some family and friends outside of her circle, there weren't too many people on her side -- even her own husband Jack Tweedy (Dylan Walsh) and brother Hollis Chenery (Dylan Baker) didn't have much faith in her.

None of that mattered to Mrs. Chenery one bit, and she was smart enough to pool the resources around her to aid in her efforts. She barely broke a sweat when standing up to the good ole boys that ran the show.

(L-R) AJ Michalka, Sean Cunningham, Dylan Walsh, Jacob Rhodes, Carissa Capobianco as Penny's husband and kids.
Photo: John Bramley ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

One major obstacle standing in the way of such dreams was millionaire Ogden Phipps (James Cromwell), who, along side countless others, down played her abilities of running her own training ranch, but she stuck to her guns none-the less. Penny -- being the smart woman that she really was -- did her home work and searched through her father's documentation involving his estate. She used those documents to her advantage; devising cleaver plans to raise money to save the training facility her father (Scott Glenn) worked so hard to build, like the optioning of breeding rights to wealthy investors to raise money and bringing on board veteran trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) to break in the prized stallion. All of which, she took a huge but calculated gamble on.

“Secretariat” also conveys a certain authenticity thanks to Randall Wallace's skillful direction. When it came time for the horse scenes, they were exhilarating to watch, because they were not only seen but also felt. The heavy sound of the gates opening as the muscular stallion burst through struck a cord with the audience, as they were left breathless by the power of these animals. I loved the shots of the hooves kicking up the dirt on the lens of the camera. Those shots really drew you into the action rather than leave the audience on the sideline just watching it. And the pulsating sounds of the horses breathing as they streaked around the track, brought to mind a locomotive racing down the tracks. These scenes were not enhanced using the latest in CG, or animatronics, this was the real deal. Moviegoers cheered and clapped as if they were at the actual race.

(L-R) The real Penny Chenery and the actress playing her (Diane Lane).
Photo: John Bramley ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

This is where the line is drawn when compared to movies like “Dreamer” and “Flicka,” which is aimed more towards children in my opinion. Unlike these movies, “Secretariat” gets right down to business with its dialogue and execution. Disney labels “Secretariat” a family film; however, I feel it really appeals to the adults simply for its historical value. Children would only be interested in watching the Disney flick mainly for the horses. At the end of my viewing, I gained appreciation for the characters and story.

Watch our interviews with host Maaika Westen as she talks to actress Diane Lane and director Randall Wallace.

J.P. Langston is a member of "Sidewalks Entertainment" team primarily as a videographer. He loves movies, especially sci-fi horror and action comedies. Some of his favorite films include "Blade Runner" "The Matrix Trilogy," The (original) "Star Wars," "Equilibrium," "Serenity," "Kill Bill Vols 1 and 2," "Appleseed," "Unbreakable" and "Sin City." He has a large DVD collection, which is still growing. Since reviewing films for "Sidewalks," he has been expanding his palette for all types of films.


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