Film Review – The Cup

The Cup (PG)

Directed by: Simon Wincer

Starring: Stephen Curry, Brendan Gleeson, Daniel MacPherson

Three stars

Review by Julian Wright

If Australian director Simon Wincer followed that clichéd Hollywood saying “never work with animals” , his extensive filmography would be considerably shorter. With films like Phar Lap, The Lighthorseman, Free Willy, Operation Dumbo Drop and several other animal themed projects to his credit, it would appear he was the perfect person to bring the story behind the 2002 Melbourne Cup to the big screen.

While he handles the animal action with aplomb – the thundering climactic race is a thrill – it is the human characters he seems to struggle with. Just when the drama should be getting our hearts racing like, well, the horse racing scenes, there is a noticeably subdued tone that keeps this film from delivering the emotional punch it should.

Just a week before he is to race a horse bred overseas in the 2002 Melbourne Cup, Daniel Oliver’s (Stephen Curry) brother and best friend Jason (Daniel MacPherson) is killed in a racing accident. Daniel, who was on a winning streak at the time, hesitates in the lead up to the big race.

He always knew of the dangers – his father also died racing a horse – but he has made a commitment to Irish trainer Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson). With just days to grieve and possibly re-evaluate is career, Daniel must make a decision. He is torn between his girlfriend Trish’s (Jodi Gordon) undying support, his sister in law’s (Alice Parkinson) warning he could be the next to die and his need to stay alive for his widowed mother (Colleen Hewett).

Any Melbourne Cup buff would know how this story ends, but for those who aren’t, we wont spoil it for you here. The point of this story, however, is the emotional journey Damien takes to reach that climactic race and the dramatic goods are certainly there. Unfortunately, the way it is handled could have been more affecting.

Wincer tells his story slowly and simply, letting the emotions speak for themselves. But juxtaposed with the racing footage, it just highlights how lethargic the developments appear. While the script occasionally falls back on cliché dialogue, the actors cannot be faulted. Curry is terrific and not only just his physical transformation.

The Cup is not a complete write off, it will have you reaching for the tissues and the behind the scenes of horse racing is fascinating. But this should have gripped us and having us leave the cinema fist pumping the air, not thinking there should have been more.

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