Just last year, I found myself pulling at my hair while watching “The Blind Side.” The movie should have told the inspirational story of Michael Oher, a phenomenal athlete, but instead turned into the contrived story of Leigh Anne Touhy, the woman who took Oher off the streets and essentially bred him into football stardom. Months later, I was nearly bald when Sandra Bullock nabbed the Best Actress trophy at all the major award ceremonies for her performance.
“Secretariat” isn’t exactly the same situation, but it is close enough. Both films are inspirational fluff pieces that are pumped out every year to appease audiences that would rather cheer for a film than actually watch it.
Both movies revolve around a sassy female go-getter portrayed by an actress with artificial, out-of-place blond hair. In this case, Diane Lane plays Penny Chenery, and replaces Sandra Bullock’s poor and overly praised performance with one that is exponentially worse. Hopefully this doesn’t mean an exponential increase in undeserved acclaim as well.
And lastly, both films are undeniably pitiable in execution. The story of Secretariat is amazing, yet director Randall Wallace handles it like dramatized, low rent, grade school production. Every little moment in this film is a cue. You can almost hear the people off camera enthusiastically whispering, “AND GO!”
AND GO…another trivial monologue. AND GO…more chatter about how Penny Chenery is “just a housewife” and could never manage a horse properly, and of course Penny has got another feisty retort. AND GO…Diane Lane is pulling out the big guns and crying her eyes out…again. At times, I reciprocated the action due to boredom.
The movie’s mere redeeming factors are the slightly engaging race sequences, and John Malcovich’s performance as trainer Lucien Laurin. The actor can salvage a great performance from even the most insipid of screenplays.
I am fully aware that I will be challenged for these critiques. “Secretariat” is one of those gooey, formulaic films that will trick its audience into feeling good, inspire them to the point of ecstasy, and cause them to believe they just witnessed something far more impressive than it actually is.
Listen, I understand. As of now, I have just grown indifferent to this genre of film. But, if Diane Lane starts pulling a Sandra Bullock come awards season; well, that is when the blood will truly begin to boil.
Greg Vellante is a film critic for The Eagle Tribune.