I can see it’s potential to be critically acclaimed, but I can also see its potential to actually be entirely lifeless. And when I say ‘potential to actually be entirely lifeless,’ I actually mean ‘is entirely lifeless,’ besides being overly drawn out and long. I imagine the book was probably a great book to read. But the film simply didn’t work in all but form and shape. ‘Seabiscuit’ had no soul.
The acting, the dialogue and one-liners, the solidarity of the overall plot – everything was classically stoic, seemingly perfect. Some of the lines had the makings of greatness, but only the makings. But the creative spark, the heart of the work, dimmed to the point of nonexistence. An empty shell is pretty pointless. A gorgeous ship and a crew with all the technical know-how but no drive is nothing without a captian and purpose. Unfortunately, none but William H. Macy, playing Tick Tock McGlaughlin so brightly as to provide the only burning spark the entire film, could help it in any way. Although, Chris Cooper did deliver a great but subtle performance as Tom Smith, the horse-wrangler and trainor, as well.
The one-liners definately did not help their situation. “The makings of greatness,” where in the realization that they were indeed made showed their utter transparency. True great lines happen, aren’t made. They come from genius and coincidence, and are part of the dialogue, not above it. In other words, they are found, not thrown at you, not consciously placed solely for that purpose and blatently so. And finally, they come from great works and passion, neither of which this film falls within. So, my message to these studios with similar goals for films, stop it!
One of its greatest downfalls, however, lies in the general structure of the film. It never seemed to end, and at the same time kept seeming like it was about to, but only then keep going afterwards. It became a very tedious and tiresome pattern that only emphasized the unending length and boredom. Part of that lied in that there was no recognizable goal throughout. It was simply a life story from the history channel that led up to nearly nothing in particular, and where you simply waited for it to decide where it wanted to stop. If I had already known the life story it might have been different, but knowing little more than they win some race against the odds, the film didn’t entirely lead to the finale, and the rest of the film wasn’t interesting or entertaining enough to make up for that, not in the script, performances, or anything else but pure history.
So, final thoughts time. The performances were technically and empirically good, but entirely uninspired and labored, except William H. Macy who was as usual brilliant. The script didn’t help them, nor did it help the film. In itself, the film had no real story, just a didactic run-through of events. And finally, and most importantly, the work had no soul, no heart, no creative spark. I can see its potential to be fairly well acclaimed, but as a work of cinematic art and story, it was dead. I would be gravely dissappointed to see it find Oscar Best Picture position, but don’t rule out the possibility. I just hope to see it heavily overshadowed by the fall season and by high quality film.
Website Review: (http://www.seabiscuitmovie.com/) A chaotic mass of clips and bits that I haven’t had the time to go through. Could be interesting to some with some history interest in the film’s subject, and a few clips of the movie are littered throughout as well.
(Review ©2003 by Joshua Parkinson, posted originally at http://www.eatingpeanuts.com)