Ride Like a Girl (2019)

I don’t like to feature films on my site that I think are disappointing, as it seems to me a poor way to use a platform, however few followers one might have (and I don’t have many). However, I’ve committed myself to another Australian-themed week (which so far is by women directors) and I haven’t got many films to draw on, or time to watch new ones, so here’s one I saw on the plane over. It’s directed by Rachel Griffiths, a long-established actor whose work I’ve really appreciated, turning her hand to directing.


I know nothing about horse racing, or the competitive life of the professional jockey — though I am reminded that I’ve read a novel about a young woman riding horses for a living (it’s called House Rules by Heather Lewis) and let me tell you that had a very different tone to this film. Sadly, for all its positive messaging about young women growing up to achieve their dreams, Ride Like a Girl sticks to a programmatic structure and a deeply predictable template that majors on big swelling music to convey emotional journeys. The actors are uniformly excellent, but many of their best qualities are lost in the mix here, and the undoubtedly talented work of the jockey whose life is being told here seems reduced to a series of cliches. Still, it all looks very handsome.

Ride Like a Girl film posterCREDITS
Director Rachel Griffiths; Writers Andrew Knight and Elise McCredie; Cinematographer Martin McGrath; Starring Teresa Palmer, Sam Neill, Stevie Payne; Length 120 minutes.
Seen on a flight from London to Auckland, Friday 21 February 2020.

Warm Bodies (2013)

I must confess that I’ve never been a huge fan of the fairly prolific subgenre of zombie movies, though partly that’s because I’ve never been a huge fan of the horror genre. Blah blah metaphor for problems afflicting humanity, blah blah hollow dead-eyed malaise infecting Western culture (or some variant thereof). And here again, we have a future world that’s an extrapolation of our own, and most people are zombies roaming the hinterlands except for the brave rebels holding out in their fortified city. There’s no explanation for it, but there’s the strong implication right away that we’re in a Starship Troopers-like world where the ‘real’ humans are actually the callous amoral ones, and as for the zombies, their only crime is essentially being apathetic. Well, except for the really bad zombies, the ones that are too far gone. But for the rest of them, the premise here is that they can be rescued. By love.

Which, when typed out, isn’t the kind of précis that would win me over, except that this is really a very sweet film with engaging central performances. Here we have ‘being a zombie’ as a metaphor for the awkwardness of being a teenager, much as I imagine it might have been used in, say, Buffy the Vampire Slayer (assuming it had a zombie plot). Nicholas Hoult gets to be gangly, awkward and monosyllabic with a pasty complexion befitting someone who’s spent a lot of time indoors playing videogames, because, well, he’s a zombie. Teresa Palmer (an actress I was not hitherto aware of, but who looks a lot like Kristen Stewart) gets to be more self-assured, and in some ways has a more difficult role because she has to believably be the daughter of John Malkovich (who makes a few brief appearances).

However, it all sort of hangs together in a shaggy, comedic kind of way. This is comedy in the broad sense, in the sense where the world isn’t essentially harsh and hateful like it might be in a horror film, though there are some laughs too. Which means, for me, the surprise was that I rather enjoyed it.


CREDITS
Director/Writer Jonathan Levine (based on the novel by Isaac Marion); Cinematographer Javier Aguirresarobe; Starring Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, Rob Corddry; Length 97 minutes
Seen at Cineworld Wood Green, London, Wednesday 27 February 2013.