The movie opens in 1969 Denver, Colorado, where Penny Tweedy (Diane Lane) is a housewife mixing batter in a bowl with a lawyer husband, and four young children. Her parents and the Chenery family horse farm are back in Virginia. The horse business is not going well.
Momma Chenery dies and Old Man Chenery has lost his mind so daughter Penny commutes from Denver in attempt to serve as the owner of the race horses. She begins by hiring a new trainer Lucien Laurin (John Malkovich) and jockey Ron Turcotte (Otto Thorwarth). Even though Penny is only a "housewife," she is the designated person to run the horse operation of the family business.
In 1969, Women's Lib was just getting started so Penny was in a world controlled by men and women need not apply. With this backdrop of preconceived notions, Diane Lane exploded as the beautiful and resolute owner of a young horse affectionately referred to as Big Red. As a two year old, Big Red was a consistent winner and was named Best Horse of the Year in 1972, but he had not raced in any of the Triple Crown races ... yet.
Director Randall Wallace strikes an amazing balance between race track and humans who control and train the newly-named Secretariat. As Horse of the Year, Secretariat is under a lot of pressure to do well in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont. The year is 1973 and no horse had won the Triple Crown since Citation in 1948.
The script weaves a believable and exciting story of the progress and pitfalls of Secretariat while maintaining action and human drama. Diane Lane as Penny Tweedy personifies grace, tenderness and tenacity as the hard-charging owner. Malkovich as the quirky trainer is the perfect match for Lane and both will be on short lists for awards. Of course, describing Malkovich's character as "quirky" is surely admitting that he did not stretch for this performance. Not so sure. Crazy John was also extremely charming and likeable.
But the big winner is Diane Lane. At 45, she showed that her long career has finally paid off in this memorable performance that was the rock of this multi-faceted chronicle of one of the greatest race horses to ever live.
Ok, if you have been living under a rock and are prepared to admit that you do not know the results of Secretariat's attempt to win the Triple Crown, then stop reading immediately. He won! In 1973, I was in my first year of law school and I was crazier than John Malkovich and even I knew all about Secretariat. It was a huge story and electrified the nation.
This movie captured the glamour and excitement of the quest by the big red horse and I felt the emotion of the story throughout. I attribute my goose bumps and tears to watching an extraordinary animal and the performance of Diane "Lonesome Dove" Lane. Rock 'n Roll.