Went with my mom and grandmother. My mom had read the book and was really looking forward to the movie.
Based on a true story, it's a fairly typical plot for this type of thing. It's set during the depression, and that figures into some of the background and motives of the characters. For example, the kid basically gets given to the "circus" (travelling horse race) because his family is homeless.
I didn't see them, but apparently there were ads stating that the number one news item of 1938 was Seabiscuit. But Snopes has an article debunking that.
We learn a little about the backgrounds of the main characters. The rich guy lost his son, which led to a divorce, and he got snatched up by a girl while on a trip to Mexico. You couldn't tell at the time if she was just a callous gold-digger. The kid is intelligent and was very well educated by his father prior to being given away. Then, he grew up in bars and whore houses. The trainer is a loner with a soft spot for the underdog. And the horse is used as a training device for the "real" race horses, and he learns to lose.
A big part of the story is about the west coast racing establishment trying to earn respect (and thus attract more big-money gamblers.) They see Seabuscuit as their ticket. The top horse on the east coast kept canceling races so as not to race against him. Eventually, they got the owner to agree to a race.
The themes of the movie are perseverance and loyalty. And heart, I guess, which is another way of saying perseverance.
Things are going well, and then the kid (now an adult, actually) gets hurt. From there, there are a few more ups and downs.
My mom says they left out an entire sub-story that they only hint at in the movie. Apparently, the trainer didn't want anyone to know how well the horse was doing while getting ready for the race. So he employed a wide range of diversions to trick the reporters. They show them working with the horse at night, but I don't think they showed any of his diversions.
One thing I noticed in the movie was the use of modern race tracks. Back then, the rail was just a simple fence, with posts in the ground and the rail on top. More recently, they had the posts sunk a few feet back and they curved up to the rail, so that there was a good-sized gap under the rail for a rider to fall into without hitting a post. And one track in the film even had the new rubber sheet above the posts, in case a rider falls over the rail and would have hit the curved posts. It had no effect on the plot, but it's just a bit of trivia I noticed.
On my brother's Total Movie Value Scale, Matinee. Fairly standard Win-Against-Long-Odds story, though set against the Depression.
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