SECRETARIAT: THE MOVIE-MOVIE DISCUSSION CONTINUES
Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery Tweedy, Secretariat’s owner, with her usual grace and sympathetic ease. While her character starts out as a stay at home mom, she is confronted with a daunting decision because of her father’s declining health: Let the family horse business perish, or find a way to save it. She chooses the latter and her fiery determination is the anchor of the film.
Penny Tweedy also had an almost supernatural connection with Secretariat. Lane and Randall Wallace, the film’s director, do a wonderful job of conveying that bond. Mr. Wallace also has an old Hollywood director’s sense of story telling. Let the story and the actors tell the tale and don’t call attention to yourself. How rare is that nowadays!
The film’s scene-stealing performance is given by John Malkovich who plays Secretariat’s flamboyant (an understatement of epic proportions) trainer, Lucien Laurin. Semi-retired when approached to take on the task of training Secretariat, Laurin was a man given to colorful and woefully mismatched clothing that would seem over the top in a circus. Malkovich has made a career out of playing offbeat, usually menacing characters, but here he is charming, funny, vulnerable, and utterly hilarious. With any luck, he could be looking at a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination next year.
Huge kudos also go to fellow L.A. refugee and Oregon resident Marc Rich, who wrote the sensational screenplay for Secretariat. Most films about racehorses, such as the wonderful Seabiscuit, have a built-in underdog-who-takes-on-the-world theme. Secretariat, on the other hand, was born out of equine royalty. His sire, Bold Ruler, was one of the greatest race horses of all time so much was expected of Secretariat from the moment he was foaled. (In the film, that birthing scene is a joy to behold, by the way.) Ms. Tweedy had also come from a wealthy background and was married to a very successful lawyer. Somehow, Mr. Rich found a way to make both Ms. Tweedy and Secretariat underdogs of a different sort and his screenplay also stands out as worthy of Oscar consideration.
Lastly, Secretariat is indeed a film that the whole family will enjoy. So, grab your kids, your parents, your grandparents, and anyone else you can find, and go see Secretariat, an Old Hollywood movie-movie at last.