The Cup: Tears at the Horse Track

Because so many Americans closely follow Australian horse racing, we can assume you already know the true-life story of jockey Damien Oliver and his noble steed. But wait, here comes Irish horse trainer Dermot Weld (Brendan Gleeson) to tell us “With the right jockey, Media Puzzle could win the Melbourne Cup.” It’s 2002 when Weld flies the pampered, temperamental horse Down Under, where Oliver (Stephen Curry) appears to be that jockey—until tragedy on the track! From National Velvet to Seabiscuit, there will always be a market for horse-racing movies, because the ponies are so damn cinematic. And The Cup does supply equine scenes of Irish meadow frolics, training sessions on the beach, and slo-mo thundering hooves on the track. But in a sport well supplied with money, cheating, and eccentrics, the assignment given director Simon Wincer (Free Willy, Phar Lap) is earnest family melodrama. That means urgent hospital scenes, teary phone calls, and bedside declarations like “Remember, you’ll be riding with me always.” Curry is affecting as the grief-stricken jockey; he’s given one quietly effective scene when he explains all his scars and injuries to a girlfriend. Gleeson, always a dependable rogue, must play it mild and straight. He, like the horse, has a job to do. One white-haired track sage says of the Cup, “Anything can happen.” Not in this movie.