By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
I’m not really a horse kind of guy. In my interactions with them, they seem pleasant enough, if not terribly interested in you unless you have a carrot or something handy, and also they shit profusely, wherever they happen to be standing, or walking for that matter, for even grosser results.
Truly, a little girl’s dream animal.
Lean on Pete stars Charlie Plummer as a horse kind of guy, a high schooler newly moved in with his dad (Travis Fimmel) who’s had a pretty tough life already, but who isn’t afraid to muck up his boots a bit and help out horse trainer Steve Buscemi and frequent jockey Chloe Sevigny down at the track as a summer job. When tragedy strikes, Charlie’s connection with racehorse Pete will either prove his salvation, or be yet another run of the ladder he’s about to fall all the way down.
Director Andrew Haigh, already feted for 45 Years and Weekend, again demonstrates why he’s one of the more distinctively realist (ergo distinctively depressing) writer/directors working today. With Lean on Pete, he sets his sights on the American West, twisting some of its familiar tropes back towards the reality they may once have been moored in. This film isn’t him tackling a genre, this is him telling a full and heart-wrenchingly truthful-feeling story taking advantage of your ingrained knowledge of it.
Every frame and word of this film feels tightly controlled and labored over, from Haigh’s own script to the impeccable iconic Western imagery sullied with the real grit of working poverty produced by DP Magnus Joenck. Where there is music, these images are evocatively scored by James Edward Barker, with affecting song curation to supplement it.
The real story being told her is one too familiar to what used to constitute America’s economic backbone- the laboring middle class. It’s a story of how so many of us are one medical disaster away from homelessness or worse. and Haigh crafts not a roller coaster, but a straight flume ride to Job-like economic nightmare. Forget monsters with super-sensitive hearing or house-haunting demons. This is a true horror film.
This beer is for the boy & his horse marketing of the film, possibly meant to lure in old folks to crush them (between this and 45 Years, Haigh clearly has issues with the elderly). Lean on Pete has nothing to do with the horse, really. The film makes no great effort in establishing the boy/horse bond, which in one way is fine- it’s not that kind of movie at all- but in another wastes a potent opportunity for emotional devastation.
And this movie is all ’bout dat emotional devastation.
Lean on Pete is a truly heart-breaking account of how close so many are to outright destitution, told through the too-innocent eyes of a boy and his horse.
Lean on Pete (2018) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: for each horse race
Take a Drink: whenever things go from bad to worse (prepare to drink constantly)
Take a Drink: every time Steve Buscemi says something irascible
Take a Drink: every time Charlie’s aunt is mentioned
Take a Drink: every time Charlie Plummer looks like he’s going to cry
Do a Shot: when he finally does