I was supposed to contact the Disney Representative and my name was supposed to be on a list. The officious though smiling woman who seemed to be running the show had no idea what I was talking about, so G'ma and I waited our turn, patiently moving forward 10 or 15 places every 5 minutes or so. We were among the last 16 people to be admitted. After Ms. I'm In Charge made everyone move to the right, G'ma and I had two seats on the aisle and a nook for the walker within easy reach. There were announcements and thank you's and then the screen opened to a natural and gentle curve. I am so accustomed to tiny venues with even tinier screens - this one was big and beautiful. There were no previews or commercials, the movie just started.
I wish I could say that I loved it, but I didn't. This was a movie that didn't know where it was going and couldn't decide which story to tell along the way. Was it a feminist screed -- brave daughter fights male chauvinist pig husband and brother to save her Daddy's legacy? Was it a horse racing movie -- Daddy always said you knew what the horses were thinking, Eddie? Was it a window onto the world of the early 1970's, with protest pageants (who knows? I still can't figure it out and that's after several days of thinking) and plaid bell-bottom pants... on the men? There wasn't much suspense, since the story is well-known (I won't spoil it) and there wasn't much horse lore or, for that matter, much horse at all. They talked about the horse, but Big Red was never a character in the way that the animals were in Seabiscuit or The Black Stallion. One thing is for certain - this was not a movie that over-indulged in special effects or fancy camera angles. The racing footage was pedestrian. There was no sense of urgency or excitement. The audience clapped, but no one cheered.
The cast was wonderful, and did their best with a leaden script nearly totally devoid of character development or nuance. Diane Lane is gorgeous and real at the same time - that's a combination that will keep me interested through almost anything and it worked again here. Her clothes were handsome and so was she but I bought into her persona because of what she brought to the role, not what the role offered her. John Malkovich is one of my favorite living actors; he could make a dog food commercial seem vaguely deviant. He played an over the top character with love in his heart, hidden behind the crusty exterior which seems to be de rigeur for actors in their 50's these days. Kindly but irascible says it all. The one character I cannot forget actually appears in a multitude of disguises -- the hats that Malkovich wears deserve a SAG card of their own. The supporting cast is brilliant in its own right - James Cromwell and Margo Martinson and Nestor Serrano are all faces you've seen and names you've never known. The scenery was pretty and the clothes were stunning a and that's about all.
I did tear up just a bit - Scott Glenn's portrayal of Penny Chenery's father's gradual decline from an undisclosed mental failing was beautiful in its absence. There was nothing frantic or over-wrought about this gentle man sequestered in his office, surrounded by memories of days gone by. The scenes between him and Diane Lane hit very close to home for me. Her sense of loss, of abandonment, of picking up the mantle he'd left for her...... been there, feeling that. I was worried that G'ma would identify with his disability and that it would leave her feeling sad, but I forgot that she forgets. If it made an impression, it's buried with the rest of the detritus that's clouding her thinking. When I asked about it on the way out, it was gone.
Leaving the theater was much easier than I had expected it to be. There was a delightful 9 year old girl walking slowly and carefully and 2 steps behind G'ma and her walker as we made our way up the wide stairs to the exit. She wasn't pushing, she wasn't anxious, she wasn't annoyed and she wasn't in a hurry. She was behind G'ma and G'ma was slow and that was just fine with her. I complimented her on her outstanding regard for the welfare and safety of lovely old ladies and suggested that she tell her grown ups that she had received recognition for her behavior which they had obviously instilled in her from birth. She laughed, pointed out her parents to me, and then informed me that she had a grandmother in a nursing home so she knew all about how to behave. Egotistical? Not at all. She was absolutely right.
G'ma and I drove back to the pod-castle with smiles on our faces. It was a great night.