Thursday, October 27, 2011

Secretariat -- 2010

Rated: PG

Diane Lane
John Malkovich
Amanda Michalka
Graham McTavish
Kevin Connolly
Drew Roy
James Cromwell
Nelsan Ellis 
Fred Dalton Thomson
Dylan Walsh

When Lydia told me this was a good film my first thought was, "Another horse racing movie?" I have watched a few of those: Black Beauty, The Black Stallion, both My Friend Flicka's, National Velvet, The Man From Snowy River, The Horse Whisperer, Hildalgo, Danny, All the Pretty Horses, quite a few Roy Rogers and other old westerns. The main horse in the movie always wins in some way. I thought I'd seen enough.

But I was wrong. Today, I decided to bite the bullet so I could write home and tell my sisters that I'd watched Secretariat. From the first minute of the movie, I was into the story. Have I ever mentioned how much I love movies set in the 1960's? :-) This is indeed a horse movie but you cannot help but admire the characters in this story. The strength. The sheer will to do what was right, even if those closest to you don't agree with it.

When Penny Chenery received the phone call of her mother's death, she had no idea how much her life was about to change. When she and her family (husband and four children) arrived at the farm for the funeral, she finds the house crowded with well wishers. She tearfully reunites with her brother, friends and neighbors and with Mrs. Ham. The latter is her father's old secretary who is now taking care of her employer as his mind deteriorates from Dementia. Mrs. Ham sends her back to her father's office, where he now sits alone. As Penny talks to him, memories begin presenting themselves to her. Happy memories of better days when she was a child and her father's mind was sound. Reveling in her love for horses and a desire to know everything, he had taught her what he knew about horses and the horse breeding business.

At the funeral, a few people who were very influential in her father's life spoke to her and she was heartened that there were still some friends on whom she could count on. The next day, she came face to face with the trainer. She had heard some rumors and had done some searching. She discovered that the man had tried to pull off a fast one on her dad. She told him what she knew and fired him. When her brother found out, he was incensed. He wanted to sell the farm and he knew they wouldn't get a good price unless they had a good training program. To his dismay, Penny told him that she didn't want to sell, insisting that she would see to the farm. So began the years of many airplane flights back and forth from "home" to "back home" to the farm in Virginia.

Her father had made two smart choices when it came to horses. One: he had known that there is just as much value in a good mare as in the stallion, therefore had invested in mares. Secondly, he had made a deal with Ogden Phipps. Mr. Phipps' best stallion stallion Bold Ruler was bred to two of the Chenery's best mares Something Royal and Hasty Matilda. When it came time for the mares to foal, the two owners would flip a coin to see who got which colt. Bold Ruler was a fast horse but he did not hold up over long distances. Because of Hasty Matilda's young age, she seemed like the better choice. But Penny had done her homework once again and had discovered that Something Royal's bloodlines bore the heritage of stamina and endurance. So when it came time to flip the coin, she was pleased when Ogden Phipps chose the foal of Hasty Matilda.

So was born to Meadow Farms the horse Secretariat, Big Red to those who loved him, who would one day... well, I don't want to give it away! But this movie is about Penny Chenery and her horse as much as it is about Secretariat's rise to fame. Because without Penny stubbornness, willingness to endure hardship and her gentle but "hard as nails" personality, the world would have never been inspired by this story of greatness.

What I Liked:
1: The story was well told and ran smoothly. It was very believable.
2: The acting was great. I really felt like I knew the characters.
3: They didn't change the story too much for the original. I appreciate a film mostly based on fact.
4: Penny's strength was amazing but even more amazing, she never lost her femininity. People would mistake her femininity for weakness and she would set them right.
5: You appreciate the hardships she goes through to follow the dream she had for her family, the farm and Big Red. You sympathize with her tears and hurt. You laugh with her. You get angry with her. You feel despair with her.
6: Lucien was so, so adorable. I laughed so hard. John Malkovich is always so strange and brilliant.
7: The humor was quite well done.  

Things to Know:
1: Brief mild language.
2: Watch out for the very strong lady. She is inspiring and ladies might find themselves emulating her.

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