'The Cup': And they're off, with a rein on conflict
A movie review of "The Cup," a dramatization of the events surrounding the 2002 Melbourne Cup, Australia's world-famous horse-racing event, directed by Simon Wincer ("Phar Lap," "Free Willy"). Hooves pound. Turf flies. The crowd roars. But no real sparks fly.
Special to The Seattle Times
'The Cup,' with Stephen Curry, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel MacPherson. Directed by Simon Wincer, from a screenplay by Wincer and Eric O'Keefe. 106 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains profanity). Admiral.
Hooves pound. Turf flies. The crowd roars.
In the tradition of his 1983 horse-racing movie "Phar Lap," director/co-writer Simon Wincer (sharing screenplay credit with Eric O'Keefe) is back in the saddle with "The Cup." Like that earlier picture, "The Cup" is a dramatization of real-life events leading up to the prestigious Melbourne Cup, the same race that Phar Lap, the legendary thoroughbred from Down Under, won in 1930.
Wincer's latest movie is the story of the 2002 Melbourne Cup and of Damien Oliver (Stephen Curry), one of Australia's top jockeys who rode the Irish horse Media Puzzle to glory in that contest.
It's a very decorous picture in which a sense of conflict is largely lacking.
It's a tale of two brothers, Damien and his older sibling Jason (Daniel MacPherson), also a jockey. They're competitive up to a point but are so mutually supportive that neither begrudges the other his successes. Damien is the more accomplished rider, and Jason is first in line to cheer him on.
Similarly, the picture's third major character, Irish trainer Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson), is presented early on as a major control freak who gives Damien strict instructions on how to run a race. When Damien pursues his own strategy, and wins, Weld doesn't squawk. Winning is winning, after all.
When a family catastrophe on the eve of the big event fills Damien with such shattering sorrow and self-doubt that it seems doubtful he'll be capable of riding in the Cup, Weld's confidence in his rider is serene and unshakable. Furthermore, in encounters with a rival horse owner, the relationship between Weld and the other man is warm and courtly. No friction. No sparks.
Even when Damien and his loved ones struggle with his crisis of confidence, their interactions are so muted that though there is a great deal at stake, there is little sense of urgency in the scenes.
The horse-racing scenes are well-staged, but they, too, seem oddly restrained.
No rough edges anywhere. "The Cup" is too well-mannered for its own good.
Soren Andersen: email@example.com