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The story about America's Super Horse
It kind of figures after the success of "Seabiscuit", that it would only be a matter of time before we saw another horse racing film. Therefore, I guess according to Hollywood's logic, if your going to make another horse race movie, then you might as well make it about one of histories' greatest race horses of all time, in Secretariat. During the 1970's, the legendary "Super Horse", stunned the entire world, as he not only won the triple crown, a feat seldom few ever reach, it was also the way he did it that made it even more captivating. During each race, Secretariat would always start off in last place, only to end up making a comeback and win against the opposing horses. Indeed, unlike most other race horses, Secretariat had a flair for the dramatic, that catapulted him to being arguably known as the greatest race horse that ever lived.
During the seventies, when Civil Rights were barely being put more into effect, a young housewife by the name of Penny Chenery Tweedy (Diane Lane), inherited her father's estate and horse ranch, along with his prized race horses. At the time, it was practically unheard of for many women to be respected in business. Let alone be owners of prize race horses. However, due to a series of events, one of the horses she owns gives birth to a young horse that shows a lot of promise for a stallion, at an early age. Heck, he even walks properly right after he was born. Something that's quite unheard of among most horses, as most can barely even stand the day of their births. Needless to say, this becomes only a glimpse sign of things to come.
A few years later, Penny and her colleagues guide her long-shot but precocious stallion, to set, in 1973, the unbeaten record for winning the Triple Crown. Along the way, facing various doubters as she's the first woman to ever be involved in horse racing, while even facing intense scrutiny from media and her own family. Add in the how much financial deficit her initial beginnings are running this ranch, then you should be able to fathom the intense pressure this woman was under. Most people probably would've buckled under this type of pressure, but she didn't. No, Penny remained headstrong throughout all of this; despite suffering intense scrutiny from everyone. I guess that's what makes winners so great. They always rise above adversity. No matter the stakes or risks involved.
What I loved most about this film was Diane Lane's performance. Given the type of role this is, it would've been so freaking easy to make her character a cliched one that always got the last word of every argument, and was never wrong about anything. However, this film didn't do that. If anything, I thought Diane played a perfect balance of feminism, caring, business savvy, compassion and even a sense of humanity in her character. Sure, there were various moments where you saw her standing her ground, as her brother and husband questioned her motives for not selling her father's ranch, or when she had to put up with the media scrutinizing her ability as a horse owner, due to her gender. However, there were also tender moments, where you saw her crying, over the fact that her inherited business causes her to miss out on spending time with her children, like seeing her daughter's school play. It is during these various moments, that the audience gets a strong idea of who Penny really is. How she isn't just a strong independent woman trying to make it in a man's world, she's also a mother and a caring woman that would do anything to care of her family.
If you ask me, Diane Lane hands down deserves an Academy Award Nomination for this role. Sure, I may get a lot of flak for boldly saying that this early before the Academy season rolls around, but Diane is literally that good. If anything, I would even put her performance up there with Sandra Bullock's in "The Blindside." Trust me, you won't be disappointed with her, in this movie, as her charm carries the entire film.
As for John Malkovich (Lucien Laurin), what can I say about the guy? He's arguably one of the most under used actors in Hollywood so in this movie, his neurotic wit and dazzling flair, for making almost any scene poignant, really shines through in this.
Sure, the story is a bit cliche ridden, and eerily similar to "Seabiscuit", on so many levels. Invoking a strong underdog type theme, while incorporating both horses coming back from insurmountable odds and injuries. But hey, it's like "The Exorcist" when it comes to exorcism movies. There's really only so much you can do with that type of genre, that it's natural every movie is going to come off eerily similar or in some cases, just end up being a straight rip off of the original. Such is the case with horse racing movies. Sure, the movie is predictable from beginning to end, but it's a deep movie about one woman's struggle to achieve greatness and overcoming adversity through this horse's success.
All in all, I would have to give this film a three out of four. It's not a perfect movie by any stretch of the imagination, but it's definitely an entertaining one. Diane Lane definitely should get a Oscar nod for this role if you ask me. "Secretariat" is definitely a great film for the entire family to enjoy.