Lean on Pete
Adventure / Drama
Lean on Pete
Adventure / Drama
The film follows fifteen-year-old Charley Thompson. He wants a home, food on the table and a high school he can attend for more than part of the year. As the son of a single father working in warehouses across the Pacific Northwest, stability is hard to find. Hoping for a new start they move to Portland, Oregon where Charley takes a summer job, with a washed-up horse trainer, and befriends a failing racehorse named Lean on Pete.
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July 02, 2018 at 05:06 AM
Not as good as Haigh's previous work
Fans of director Andrew Haigh will know his unassailable talent for what one might label unsentimental emotionalism; his films deal with intensely emotional situations without lapsing into Speilbergian fawnishness. And, although compared to the masterful 45 Years (2015), Lean on Pete is a touch melodramatic, Haigh's talent for allowing character and theme to rise organically to the surface through quiet moments of introspection is still very much to the fore. So why not a higher score? The biggest problem here is that things are laid on too thick; Charley (Charlie Plummer) is very much a Job figure, and suffers such a litany of misfortunes that one fully expects him to be diagnosed with terminal cancer. Similarly, the pseudo-allegorical nature of the characters Charley encounters is too on-the-nose for the realistic milieu Haigh has crafted. Part state-of-the-nation address, part bildungsroman, it's worth a look, but is ultimately lacking a satisfying thematic through-line.
Way Too Long
How to start? How to start? I see a picture of a boy and a horse on the DVD package. So I think this is another story about a boy who believes in an over-the-hill horse who wins the big race and everyone goes home happy. Not so. This story goes in an entirely different direction. Who knew?
Sometime in the 1990s In Portland, Oregon, 15-yr old Charlie (Charlie Plummer) gets a job with horse trainer Del (Steve Buscemi) who teaches Charlie about eating manners, his horse Lean on Pete and about the horse racing arena in general. When Dell tells Charlie he is going to sell Lean on Pete, Charlie decides to save the horse and takes Del's truck, trailer and Lean on Pete to go look for his aunt Marge (Allison Elliott) his only living relative, who was on the outs with Charlie's father Ray (Travis Fimmel) who just died. Charlie believes Marge is in Wyoming or Montana. Charlie's mother had abandoned Ray and Charlie.
So most of the movie is Charlie and Lean on Pete traveling to Wyoming until a car hits and kills Lean on Pete in the desert, and Charlie goes onward on foot. He commits several crimes just to survive and escapes any close encounter the police.
Now here's the thing. This story is based upon a novel and my guess is that within the novel Charlie and Lean on Pete somehow bonded. This movie didn't show any such bonding. Charlie was respectful to Lean on Pete and as far the horse was concerned as long as he was fed, watered and treated nice he was agreeable to anything Charlie wanted. Maybe the title of this version of the story should have been changed to something different. We hardly ever saw Lean on Pete except as a horse Charlie wanted to save.
Here's the other thing. This movie is just too long to keep anyone's interest, especially when Charlie and Pete head out for Wyoming. And the real story should have been when Charlie meets Marge and will he go to jail for those crimes he committed? But everything ends there. Bummer.
Notables: Travis Fimmel as Ray, Charlie's father, who had a habit of getting next to other men's wives; Chloe Sevigny as Bonnie, Del's jockey and she has a long history of serious racing accidents.
The photography and cinematography were exceptional. Saw some pastel skies. Nice.
The best thing to come out of this movie is the performance of Steve Buscemi and I had hoped he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor. Didn't happen. I really enjoyed his performance. The scenes in the beginning with Del were pure gold. Charlie Plummer was very good, too, and we'll see more of him in future movies I am sure. (5/10)
Violence: Yes, brief when Ray gets shot by an outraged husband.
Humor: Some, not much.
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A life of some stability
If anyone sees an advertisement for Lean On Pete and thinks they're going to
see some boy and a horse story like TV's Fury or National Velvet put that out
of your mind. This is a touching story about a kid growing up in the Pacific
Northwest with a single father who gets a summer job working for a horse
trainer and it's filled with pathos and tragedy.
Charlie Plummer gives a beautiful performance as the sensitive 15 year old who
gets a job with Steve Buscemi a horse trainer who has seen better days. Buscemi
is working the quarter horse county fair circuit and he has a couple of horses who also have seen better days.
Buscemi makes it clear from the gitgo that this is a business for him and jockey
Chloe Sevigny tries to give him good advice that this is a business and not to get attached to the horses and think of them as pets. But Buscemi's horse
named Lean On Pete gets attached to young Plummer and vice versa. He
steals the horse to prevent him from a final trip to the glue factory. It's
quite the odyssey the boy and horse have.
The vistas of the Pacific Northwest are beautifully captured and the casting is
exquisitely perfect in the role. But in a carefully controlled and beautiful
performance Charlie Plummer conveys so much emotion. All he wants is a life
of some stability and something or someone to love. Simple things a lot of
us take for granted and some of us are cursed never to have.
Lean On Pete is a real sleeper of a movie and should have gotten more recognition than it did. I defy anyone to watch this and have a dry eye when
finished. Simple and hauntingly beautiful.