Alternate Title: The Little Horsey That Could
What can I say? It’s about a horse. I’ve never been into horses. My mom loves watching The Kentucky Derby every year, but I just don’t get it. I never even wanted a pony as a little girl. Admittedly, this film was a hard sell from the start.
That said, this movie isn’t really about a horse; I’m sorry for lying to you. It’s supposed to be about a horse, but it’s disjointed and feels more like a coagulation of partial stories instead of one full story focusing on its namesake (which is…a horse).
Seabiscuit is a true story chronicling a horse that’s considered too little to be a powerful race horse; his trainer Tom Smith (Chris Cooper); his jockey Red Pollard (Tobey Maguire); and his owners Charles and Marcela Howard (Jeff Bridges and Elizabeth Banks, respectively).
Set during the aftermath of The Great Depression, the film is based on an extremely nuanced book, which is probably why the screenplay resulted in a lot of vignette-type stories rather than really allowing emotional intimacy with one particular character or even with the horse himself. The whole thing feels like Ken Burns should have gotten hold of it and made a documentary series.
There’s definitely a good story here, but too few opportunities to see the humanity in each character. The narration that sets the tone of the film stops halfway through the movie for no apparent reason. It also doesn’t help that Howard’s wife, while having a Hispanic name (Marcela Zabala), is played by a white lady. Seriously? She’s a fucking blonde. Not even close to the right ethnicity.
There were too many moments where I would think, “Oh, I’d like to know more about that person or situation,” and then the story would just continue in a different direction. The theme was hard to find; maybe it’s about a horse that rose spirits during hard times in America; maybe it’s about a few people who’ve dealt with hard times themselves; maybe it’s kind of about both, but it certainly says something about a story when one of the characters has to distill the theme through narration at the end.
While its basis is a painstaking account of historical non-fiction by Laura Hillenbrand, Seabiscuit the movie missed the mark for me and veered off course.
Now it’s Your Turn…
Seabiscuit was nominated for Best Picture in 2003, but did the Academy get it right?