October 20, 2005
Dakota Fanning is a plucky girl who believes in the power of believing
and teams up with a horse that believes in the power of Twizzlers in the
“inspired by a true story” Dreamer.
Add horse racing to golf, baseball, boxing and football on the list of
sports that act as metaphors for (pick one) a country in economic hard
times, the class struggle, the race struggle, one man’s internal
struggle with his demons or a parent’s relationship with his
son/daughter. Racing Stripes and Seabiscuit have more or less fulfilled
my lifetime need for horse-racing-as-life-metaphor movies; like that
extra cup of cheese for the movie nachos, Dreamer left me feeling overly
full of oily orange substance.
Not to say that enthusiasts of family weepies won’t enjoy the tale of
Cale Crane (Fanning) and her pa Ben (Kurt Russell). Ben has had some
sort of soul-crushing disappointment that makes him perpetually grim and
grumpy in conversations with his own father (Kris Kristofferson).
Selling off the once-spacious family horse farm to keep afloat, Ben
works a day job training horses for the standard villainous rich horse
owner (David Morse) one finds in this sort of movie. Though Ben may have
no joy in his job, Cale’s a big fan of the horsies. She tags along to
work with him, which makes it difficult to pull the trigger when an
injury to a horse named Sonya would normally lead to the horse’s demise.
Naturally, Ben vows to nurse the horse back to health and Cale quickly
becomes emotionally invested in the horse. At first the plan is just to
make the horse well enough to breed but soon Ben, Cale and grandpa begin
to wonder if Sonya (whose full name means “dreamer” in Spanish) might be
able to race again.
Every single line of dialogue in this movie sounds like something one
might find in a “Get Well Soon” greeting card or on an inspirational
poster. Something about not giving up and getting back in the game and
winners being the people who believe when others don’t. Every. Single.
Line. Consider for a moment how tiring and demoralizing even one of
these “hang in there, kitty”-type cheer-me-ups can be. Consider then how
ear-bleedingly painful it is to sit through nearly two hours of it. Two
hours of an assured outcome and relentless believing-in-your-dreams
chirpiness. It’s as though the film is trying to hold us hostage.
Well, Dreamer, I give. What do you want, money? National secrets? Just
make it stop.