Secretariat

My wife liked this movie, so we watched it together yesterday.

Overall, there’s little to complain about, although some of the jumps in time were puzzling  (“It’s just before Christmas and they’re swimming?  In Colorado?  Oh wait, it must be summer.”)  The story of the world’s fastest racehorse gets the standard plucky come-from-behind Disney treatment, where minor setbacks are heavily dramatized.  John Malkovich’s talent is wasted as Lucien Lauren, the horse’s trainer, in that anyone can dress in odd clothes and recite a few lines with little emotion or appeal

I’ll admit the main three races of the Triple Crown are filmed to be thrilling with some great hoof-level cinematography,  but I have to remind myself that this is less about triumph of the human spirit and more about if an animal will do what humans want to a sufficient degree.  The movie takes pains to suggest that this particular horse loves nothing more than to run as fast as he can and then pose for front-page pictures, but I suppose the reality is that race horses are mere slaves to human passions.  Secretariat retired to lush green fields and all the dams he could possibly copulate with, but it’s not hard to wonder what is done with expensive but useless animals that don’t break records:

Not all racehorses are so lucky. At least 3,000 are retired each year, usually by age 6 if not younger, the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation estimates. Given that most horses live well into their 20s, the question of what to do with them for the next 15 or more years looms. Approximately two out of every three that come off the track — even those that are sound and healthy — are euthanized, abandoned on public land or in empty fields, or slaughtered.

So despite the tugging of heartstrings as Secretariat blows away records, despite the “everyone loves a underdog who wins” story, despite the loveliness of Diane Lane, I have a hard time feeling good about this movie.

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