Secretariat is the star of the film, however Rich and Wallace didn't simply choose to tell his story. Instead, Secretariat emphasizes the relationship between housewife Penny Chenery (Diane Lane) and the thoroughbred she bet the farm on - literally. Penny stepped up to take over her ailing father's thoroughbred racing operation and horse breeding business in Virginia, something unheard of for a woman to do back in the early 1970s. Horse racing was a man's sport, but that didn't deter Penny. She battled sexism, fought to keep her horse when the funds were dwindling, and kept the faith when very few people believed in her. And in Diane Lane's capable hands, this strong, determined woman emerges as just as much of a champion as her record-breaking horse.
The StoryHappily married, mother of three Denver housewife Penny Chenery Tweedy has her life turned upside when she's needed back at her family's Meadow Stables in Virginia to take over the operations from her ailing father (played by Scott Glenn). One of her first orders of business is to attend a coin toss to see which of two colts will belong to Meadow Stables. In a stroke of luck, she loses the coin toss and gets the colt she actually wanted.
Nicknamed Big Red, this colt springs to his feet faster than groom Eddie Sweat (Nelsan Ellis) and trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) have ever seen a newborn do before, foreshadowing great things to come from the leggy colt. Penny believes she's got something special on her hands and does everything in her power to make sure the horse is allowed to fulfill his destiny. A woman no one had heard of took a horse no one thought could win and together they rode into the history books, captivating a nation while shattering records.
The Bottom LineThe real Secretariat had a heart twice as big as a normal horse's, and Secretariat the film has a lot more heart and soul to it than most 'feel-good' family films. Yes, there are times when it gets slightly sappy, but overall the film is genuinely moving. It's one of the few uplifting films put out this year, and every once in a while we need something that warms our hearts and lets us walk out of the theater feeling happy, don't we?
Secretariat was directed by Randall Wallace and is rated PG for brief mild language.
Theatrical Release: October 8, 2010