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Saturday, October 9, 2010

Overlooked and Underrated: Let it Ride (1989)



I got excited last weekend about the time Disney released Secretariat. Not for the film itself, but upon seeing the TV ads that had run the previous weeks, I ordered a copy of an overlooked comedy about horse racing from the late 80's that I happened to catch on HBO one summer in my teenage years....and my DVD finally arrived. Let it Ride stars Richard Dreyfuss as Jay Trotter, a man trying to break his gambling habits in order to save his marriage only to then have a sure bet fall in his lap. The quick-witted screenplay and brilliant casting makes for a very funny, quirky and enjoyable film. Screenwriter Nancy Dowd and first-time feature director Joe Pytka do a great job of capturing the setting of the racetrack as well as the mindset of the everyday bettor. Dreyfuss once again delivers a comedic performance on the money, but the real jewels of this movie are the side characters. David Johansen is hilarious as Trotter's best friend and biggest loser of the group of riff-raff they hang around the track with. Teri Garr was a great choice to play his wife who is used to having her heart broken time after time. Jennifer Tilly plays her trademark dim-witted character, this time with more sex-appeal, and many other recognizable faces pop up as well, like Allen Garfield, Robbie Coltrain, Cynthia Nixon, Tony Longo, and Richard Dimitri (Roman Maroni from Johnny Dangerously) just to name a few. Richard Edson, the garage attendant from Ferris Bueller has all of eight lines and is one of the funniest people in the movie. These days, a story with this many characters would have the director trying to shoehorn in equal screen time for a bunch of egos, but this one gets it right and gives the viewer no more than they need. A collaborative effort between writing, performance and editing generates a comedy with a good pace, and it all wraps up in a tidy 90-minute package. There aren't many copies out there but getting hold of one is well worth the effort.

2 comments:

  1. Totally agree! I saw this Gem on cable as a kid and was really surprised how much I loved it. The Track atmosphere is amazing, but what I love is the how luck is a character in this film. Really underrated and I hope people try to find it.

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  2. This movie is fine except for its main premise, which is wrong and stupid and dangerous. The main character is a gambling addict who behaves terribly and is rewarded for it. There are millions of born losers who, like Jay, plead "cmon God. I got it coming!" and by engaging in this magical thinking/mental illness ruin their own and their family's lives. The movie is ridiculous wish fulfilling bs, in spite of the "quick-witted screenplay and brilliant casting". They should make a sequel where Jay is an alcoholic bum who lost everthing a few years later. I'm not usually so moralistic, but come on, these folks really don't need this encouragement. I think this movie did actual harm in the world, whatever it's artist merit, which is marginal imo. I would honestly not be surprised if Vegas produced it.

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