A failing horse farm rests its financial future on a promising racehorse.
Directed by Randall Wallace
Starring Diane Lane, John Malkovich, and John Walsh
Review by Jon Kissel
Malcolm Gladwell broke down the David and Goliath story in such a way that completely undermined its common understanding. A shepherd wielding a sling in that time period may as well have been armed with a sniper rifle. For a job that requires pegging wolves on the move, a slow-moving big’un would’ve made for an easy target. Underdog arcs are so powerful that they get grafted onto stories that don’t deserve them, like in Randall Wallace’s Secretariat. A dominant racehorse can’t just stomp the competition and strut to the Triple Crown winner’s circle, so the film endeavors to make Secretariat the only thing standing between the bankruptcy of a horse farm for his upper class owners who were otherwise never given a chance. Wallace follows up Secretariat with Heaven Is For Real, a piece of claptrap about a kid who had a dream about a rainbow horse and got a book deal out of it, and it’s probably the more believable of the two.
The life of a ‘that guy’ has got to be pretty frustrating. Not that character actors have hard lives necessarily, but they spend a lot of time being adjacent to serious, world-beating fame and power without being of it. People know their face but not their name, and most occasions when they’re recognized in public probably devolve into a humiliating guessing game of which movie the recognizer is thinking of. They make a solid living, but auditions and all the difficulty of that are still a thing. Clifton Collins Jr is one of these guys, cranking out an average of four credits a year for 3+ decades. Often memorable but rarely central, Jockey provides Collins with a starring vehicle about an old pro who’s been doing his thing for a long time without much to show for it. Collins’ real life is surely nowhere near as bleak, but there is some life imitating art in Clint Bentley’s sensitive feature debut.
An old-fashioned underdog story, Dream Horse loses nothing just because it’s familiar. Sports movies like this one can only go in a few different ways, and Euros Lyn’s 2021 adaptation of a 2016 documentary about an early 21st century horse follows a predictable, if accurate, three-act structure of success followed by failure followed by success. Dream Horse gets over on the many other films like it with effective casting of character actors, an emphasis on the omnipresent class angle in its Welsh setting, and a predictably strong lead performance from Toni Collette. Lyn puts it all together in a warm and charming package that’s easy to love and impossible to hate.
JUST SOME IDIOTS GIVING SURPRISINGLY AVERAGE MOVIE REVIEWS.
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