- Colin Fraser
RIDE LIKE A GIRL
THREE STARS The story of Michelle Payne who took the Melbourne Cup by sheer determination.
Teresa Palmer, Sam Neil
Dodgy title aside, Rachel Griffiths’ telling of this inspirational true story from Australian horse racing is a crowd pleaser. It’s got something for everyone: the sports angle, the Melbourne Cup, a country-mouse who roared, a loving father, a doting daughter, horses, Cups, broken bones, broken hearts, passion and glamour. And it’s got Sam Neil!
For those who aren’t familiar with her story, Michelle Payne was one of ten children born to celebrated horseman Paddy Payne. Widowed young, he raised his brood alone and together they lived and breathed horses. Four became jockeys, one won the Melbourne Cup. And in 2015, she was the first woman to do so.
Working from a script by Andrew Knight and Elise McCredie, Griffiths (this is the acclaimed actor’s debut feature as director) has crafted a perfectly enjoyable film that hits all the right notes in the right order. If that sounds like faint praise, it’s not. Measured praise perhaps, for while RIDE LIKE A GIRL is an entertaining experience, it’s not a particularly provocative one. It plays safe with the tone, style and delivery of Payne’s story, focusing on the jockey’s passion and determination, starting at the start, ending at the end.
Perhaps Griffiths was being mindful of the audience she’s pitching her story at. Certainly there’s nothing here that will upset or scare anyone (other than the possibility of witnessing someone being crushed by a falling horse - spoiler alert: you don’t). This is as straight-forward as any inspirational story can be, one that stays focussed on the inspiration. Griffiths is well served by Teresa Palmer (HACKSAW RIDGE) as Michelle who nails the assertive tone, while Neil as Payne Snr is his usual, affable and utterly charming best.