Secretariat, written by Mike Rich, on ‘suggestion’ by William Nack’s book, Secretariat: The Making Of A Champion, is a masterly script. In the typical Disney fashion, the film tells a tale of hardened resolve in the face of many odds, leading to the protagonist’s ultimate triumph. In taking a real life story and dramatising it, the writer has mostly stuck to the facts and told, very beautifully, the inspiring tale of the greatest racehorse ever. However, the film will appeal more to the adults than the kids because it takes the audience through Penney Chenery’s conundrums and her tumultuous relationship with her husband and brother. Women will certainly sympathise with her character. If there be any flaw in the script, it might be the fact that it is a candy-floss version of what might have really happened. The dialogues are terse and functional, leaving aside a little bit of rhetoric.
The performances are all stellar. Diane Lane is wonderful and impactful in her role of Penney Chenery. John Malkovich will bring a smile to the audience’s faces as the eccentric but earnest French-Canadian trainer. Otto Thorwarth, as Secretariat’s Jockey, leaves a mark. Margo Martindale, as Penny’s assistant, is loveable. Nelsan Ellis, as Eddie, Secretariat’s groom, is very good. Scott Glenn, Dylan Walsh and Dylan Baker do well. Fred Dalton Thompson and James Cromwell are effective in their short roles. AJ Michalka, Sean Cunningham, Jacob Rhodes and Carissa Capobianco do well as Penney’s kids. Watch out for a special appearance by the real Mrs. Penney Chenery herself!
Direction & Editing
Director Randall Wallace does a good job. He is able to spin an inspiring tale. Even though we know the ultimate outcome of the drama, he has managed to create suspense by showing Secretariat losing in a race before the final three. He also, very cleverly, moves the focus of the film from the horse to the trials and tribulations of its owner, thus leveraging the story’s emotional quotient. The film’s excellent cinematography, by Dean Semler, and editing, by John Wright, go a long way in realising Wallace’s vision. All the races are very well-shot and edited; the farm locations have also been picturised very well.
The Last Word
On the whole, Secretariat makes for a good watch for the entire family. Its positivity should lead to good word-of-mouth.