Get to the theater as soon
as you can to see this wonderful, heart-warming story about a
middle-class housewife in 1970s America who finds her passion in life
through the famous Triple Crown winning thoroughbred named Secretariat.
Diane Lane gives a terrific
performance as Penny Chenery, who inherits her family horse farm after
her father’s death. Loaded with debt, the farm is at risk of being lost
to estate taxes, but Penny refuses to give up on her father’s dream.
Fortunately for her, when a vibrant, chestnut- colored, thoroughbred
foal is born to one of the farm’s most valuable mares, things quickly
change. Penny sees the potential in this young stallion and pushes him
onto the racing scene. She convinces Lucien Laurin, a reputable but
down-and-out horse trainer, marvelously played by John Malcovich, to
take on the task of training Big Red (or just Red), as the horse was
originally called, and prepare him for racing history.
At every turn, Penney is met
with obstacles—mainly people—who remind her that she is a woman with no
knowledge of the intricate horse-racing business. But acting on
intuition and a basic “gut knowledge,” she perseveres through an
overbearing brother who insists that she sell the farm, a demanding
husband who wants her back in the kitchen ironing his shirts, two
children who live according to their own selfish desires, and the
entire horse-racing community who writes her off as misguided and
loved that the movie started and ended with Scripture and had a
touching scene where Jesus is referenced in the lyrics of “O Happy
Day.” Even though God was not mentioned per se, there were constant,
steady reminders that the Almighty’s hand was at work in the lives of
Penny and Red. Throughout the story, there is a persistence and
tenacity to both of their personalities that drive the drama. As much
as Penny refuses to give up on
likewise will not give up on
her. Their unique, spiritual connection grabs at the heart-strings—it’s
as though the horse somehow knows it isn’t really him running these
races, but Penny, who is running her own special race. He runs for her,
because she believes in him when no one else does. And she fights for
Red in the same way, pushing him forward, giving him encouragement, and
seeing him through to the Triple Crown win at the Belmont Stakes,
setting new race records that still stand today.
Diane Lane is in every scene and
carries the movie with poise, grace, beauty, and exquisite expressions
that surpass the best dialogue from any A-list screenwriter. I look
forward to seeing every family-friendly movie she is in. John
Malcovich, on the other hand, adds a flash of bizarre quirkiness common
to all of his movies, reaffirming his position at the top of my
“favorite Hollywood actor” list.
The combination of the story,
acting, music, cinematography, and racing drama all added immensely to
the movie and kept me on the edge of my seat. Even though I knew Red’s
legacy and that he would triumph as the reigning Triple Crown winner,
it was Penny’s inner journey and Red’s unlikely rise to racing stardom
that intrigued and entertained.
I was also touched that the
movie is produced by Disney, harkening back to my youth when Mickey and
his friends were instrumental in screening timeless family classics
that my children love to this day. I know Walt would be pleased if he
could see this film. I pray Secretariat is just the
beginning of a shift within the Wonderful World of Disney to make more
family-friendly, live-action dramas that every age can enjoy.
Make sure you get to the
theaters soon before this one passes on to the land of dollar theaters
and DVDs. And tell all of your friends too. Let’s communicate to the
Hollywood community that movies like Secretariat
are what we Christians are willing to support at the local box office.