Wednesday, September 08, 2010
Informal Secretariat Movie Review
This letter was written to a "Secretariat" film publicist who wanted to know what I thought of the movie. I'm posting it here because several Facebook friends were curious.
Hey, (publicist): Thanks for inviting me to the pre-screening of "Secretariat" and for asking me to share an opinion of the film. I'm not certain of what value my opinion would serve. I'm far from being someone that's in the film's target market. In any case, here's a few observations.
It's not easy making a film about a professional sport, even when that sport isn't known in detail by the public. I understand that. But Disney didn't get its money's worth from the consultants it hired. The amount of mud splattered on jockeys' faces makes them look like Al Jolsons. A valet would have taken the saddle from the Ron Turcotte character long before he went beneath the grandstand to sulk. The substitution of Keeneland for Belmont Park is sacrilegious - Secretariat's 31-length Belmont Stakes victory is epochal, too vivid in people's minds to believe that this scene didn't need to observe history.
I had no problem with the way the plot unfolded or how Penny Tweedy's personal challenges were portrayed. But there was little depth to the script and thus the actors came off as people you didn't really care about. The way Kevin Connolly played Bill Nack would be bad even if Bill Nack was anything like the actor's portrayal. John Malkovich's Lucien Laurin was made up, but did the character have to be such an over-the-top caricature?
There are several scenes that seem to have been added at the final minute for comic relief - and not for the better. The scene where the Secretariat team dances around the horse while he's getting a bath - oh, brother. The music for the finish of the Belmont Stakes when Secretariat delivers on Tweedy's dreams is so heavy-handed, it's laughable. The closing shot of the characters accepting the trophy has no context, looks phony and empty. The whole film seemed long. I couldn't wait for it to end.
(Publicist), the film's biggest critics will be people like me who are deep into the sport, who lived through the age of Secretariat and hold him up on a pedestal. Yet, I believe the film is weak cinematically even for Disney audiences and may not become the commercial and critical success that you'd like it to be. You'll find some horse racing authorities eager to praise what they've seen. The sport is desperate to call attention to itself. But you, as a publicist, have a tough job ahead of you, I think.