A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Ride Like a Girl is a biopic about Michelle Payne, the first female jockey to win Australia's prestigious Melbourne Cup. Payne (Teresa Palmer) is a great role model, with courage and perseverance on full display as she moves forward in her field despite sexism (people tell her women can't compete with men) and sexual harassment (a man offers her advancement for sex). Violence is infrequent, but a parent has died (off-screen, before the story takes place), and another character dies during the movie. Viewers don't see the accidents that led to either death, but scenes do show a funeral and grieving relatives. Michelle is injured in several scenes, sometimes seriously. In one tense sequence, she falls hard and is shown lying motionless on the track -- and then recuperating from the injury at length. Another scene shows Michelle trying to lose weight for a race by starving herself, exercising, and sweating. Language is infrequent but includes "hell," "s--t," and "bloody." Adults drink wine at parties and dinners, but no one acts drunk. Family ties are strong and supportive, including a loving (if strict) father, and a main character with Down syndrome who's treated with respect and admiration.
- Parents say
- Kids say
What's the story?
RIDE LIKE A GIRL tells the story of Michelle Payne (Teresa Palmer), who in 2015 became the first female jockey to win Australia's prestigious Melbourne Cup. Growing up in a large racing family and taking instruction from her former jockey dad, Paddy (Sam Neill), Michelle was taught to race and to win -- but also that her brothers were more likely to win glory for the Payne family. Surprising almost everyone except herself, Michelle rises to prominence in the race world despite many setbacks, until her unprecedented win secures her place in history.
Is it any good?
Even people who don't give a hang about horse racing are likely to thrill to this gorgeous, exhilarating biopic about a barrier-smashing female athlete. Palmer -- all sinewy grace, with determination radiating out of every pore -- is a terrific stand-in for Michelle Payne, making us feel both her efforts (one sequence shows her waking up at 3 a.m. morning after morning to stand waiting for work at a track, while male athletes easily get the chances she's denied) and the deep thrill of her successes, returning to race over and over again despite sexism and terrible injuries. All along, the camera work is simply beautiful: It pulls out wide to admire the sight of wheeling, stamping horses running freely over green hills and in the surf and sidles in close to catch the bits of sod flung up from flying hooves and the sweat on the brows of the hardworking jockeys thundering around the track.
The emotional beats ring true, too, especially the scenes in which the large, freewheeling Payne family gathers together for meals and to watch intently when one of their number competes in a race. Michelle is the youngest of 10 siblings, which doesn't sound fun, but Ride Like a Girl makes it feel like a blast with all of the overlapping dialogue and familial wisecracks. Best of all is the relationship between Michelle and her dad, Paddy, who alternately encourages and steadies his daughter. He's terrified of her recklessness, but the pride he feels at her extraordinary accomplishments is palpable. Michelle rebels against the strictures placed on her by society, the race world, and her cautious father, but, while she competes, it's Paddy's instruction that guides her to her ultimate victory. Hang some flowers on the neck of this lovely film and hand it a trophy: It's a winner.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about women participating in male-dominated sports like horse racing. Is it OK for women to compete with men, or should they run separate races? Are there any sports women or men shouldn't participate in at all? In what sports can men and women compete on an equal footing? In what sports have women made great strides in recent years?
How frequently is Michelle told she has to do something differently or can't do something because she's a woman? How does being female change her experience as an athlete in a male-dominated sport? Do you believe Michelle's sister Bridget, who says women have to ride twice as well to get half the chances that male riders do? How do the restrictions and put-downs affect Michelle? What's her reaction?
- In theaters: March 13, 2020
- Cast: Teresa Palmer, Sam Neill, Sullivan Stapleton
- Director: Rachel Griffiths
- Studio: Saban Films
- Genre: Drama
- Topics: Sports and Martial Arts, Great Girl Role Models, Horses and Farm Animals
- Character Strengths: Courage, Perseverance
- Run time: 98 minutes
- MPAA rating: PG
- MPAA explanation: some thematic elements, language and suggestive comments
- Last updated: March 17, 2020
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