By Sandra Kraisirideja
“Secretariat” is an underdog story about a horse and the people—owner Penny Chenery and trainer Lucien Laurin—who led him to victory in the Triple Crown in 1973.
The Triple Crown consists of three races—the Kentucky Derby, Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes—held in three different states all within five weeks. When Secretariat won the Triple Crown in 1973 it had been 25 years since a horse had accomplished the same feat.
The movie focuses on three central characters, Secretariat, Chenery and Laurin. Each had their own hurdles to overcome and odds to beat, which made their success that much more spectacular.
Secretariat was not expected to perform as well as he did in the lengthier races he ran, and his record win at Belmont Park remains unbroken. Laurin the trainer had a string of losses and had yet to produce a consistently winning horse. Chenery had grown up around horses and her father was well-respected, but she had to contend with a male-dominated industry during a time when women were just starting to create professional lives for themselves outside of the home.
“Secretariat” was directed by Randall Wallace (“We Were Soldiers”) and written by Mike Rich (“The Rookie”) who used Michael Nack’s book “Secretariat: The Making of a Champion” as source material. It stars Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Scott Glenn, James Cromwell and Dylan Walsh.
Lane plays Chenery, a Denver housewife who nearly lost her parent’s farm in order to keep Secretariat, and Malkovich portrays Laurin, the French Canadian trainer with a taste for flamboyant clothing.
Lane’s performance at times seems overly dramatic and forced and her character tends to speak in sound bites. It’s an uneven performance but it doesn’t ruin the entire movie. Malkovich is terrific; his droll tone and dry sense of humor add a nice comedic touch to the movie.
“Secretariat” is being released by Walt Disney Pictures and it is an uplifting and family friendly picture. There are only mild conflicts and no real bad guys in the story. There is a nice balance in the story between Chenery’s life and Secretariat’s races. In the end the movie does feel more about the horse than Chenery.
Rich’s script does a nice job educating the audience about the difficulties faced by racehorses so that the significance of Secretariat’s achievement at the Belmont Stakes is not lost on the audience.
Cinematographer Dean Semler (“2012”) puts the audience further in the horse racing action by combining point-of-view footage with fast-paced tracking shots in the pivotal race sequences.
Any complaints about the movie are insignificant to the overall enjoyment the picture provides.