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Film Review: Ride Like A Girl

Film Review: Ride Like A Girl

Rachel Griffiths makes her feature directorial début with this at best awkward drama about Michelle Payne, the first woman jockey to win the Melbourne Cup.

If you’re into horseracing, this is a big deal. If you’re not, however, you may just see past the film’s “inspirational” and “aspirational” (argh!) trimmings and understand that this is just a clumsy, made-for-TV-type outing graced by a few pretty good performances and the barest minimum of real emotion.

Griffiths and screenwriters Andrew Knight and Elise McCredie also can’t get past the fact that we all know how this is going to end (yes, the movie wouldn’t have been made if Payne hadn’t won), so there’s absolutely no suspense. At all. Zero. And, therefore, it’s a bit of a yawn.

Teresa Palmer is okay as Payne, the youngest of ten kids in a racing-mad family headed by Paddy (Sam Neill playing Sam Neill), a widower since Michelle was six months old and, understandably, a bit overprotective. He also appreciates that racing is a bloke’s game, but his daughter is having none of that, so we have perhaps genuine but nevertheless tiresomely endless sequences where she’s treated dismissively by sexist industry bigwigs. Palmer keeps you moderately interested in Michelle’s fate but, again, it’s hard to feel anything much, because we all know she’s eventually going to tediously turn the tables.

Of all Payne’s siblings, the only one who’s properly allowed to stand out is Stevie, and he’s nicely played by the real Stevie in his first acting role and portraying himself as a guy who’s very much the glue holding the family together. He’s seen to joke about his Down syndrome, and he’s also the one who brings together Paddy and Michelle after a long period of cheesy alienation and always close after she falls from a horse and suffers injuries so serious that she really shouldn’t have raced again. But she did, which, you’ve got to admit, was a bad idea, but there would have been no movie if she hadn’t.

With dopey comedy from Magda Szubanski as a nun, on-the-track scenes that range from impressive to clunky, oodles of speechifying, a soggy musical score from David Hirschfelder and the suggestion that horseracing is now a feminist act, this is still very much a movie which punters will convince – even force – themselves to love, no matter what.

And please, let’s be perfectly clear about one major point: yes, it might be un-Australian to dare say it, but Michelle Payne didn’t win the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Her horse, Prince of Penzance, did. Sorry (not sorry).

Ride Like A Girl (PG) is in cinemas now

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