Jockey

Starring: Clifton Collins Jr, molly Parker, and Moises Arias.

Directed By: Clint Bentley

Where I Watched It: VOD

English Audio Description Available?: Yes

Narration Provided By; The Media Access Group

Narrated By: Leilani Jones Wilmore

The Plot: An aging jockey (Collins Jr) is dealing with the lifelong repercussions of his career choice, and realizing he doesn’t have much left to give, but desperately would like one more win under his belt. While preparing for his next ride, he encounters a young man (Arias), who claims to be the son he never knew he had. Resistant at first, he gradually opens up, and the two begin to bond over the life of being a jockey.

What Works: Clifton Collins Jr is one of those actors we always like to talk about how great their supporting contribution to a film was, how terrific of an actor they are, how underrated, but then when it comes time to actually acknowledge them when they finally step into a meaty lead role, we act like we’ve never heard of them, and the film falls off the planet, and never gets any nominations.

this is a thing that we apparently like to do in Hollywood, is make our supporting character actors bleed for the opportunity to be recognized for their work, while we nominate the same conglomerate of actors for their 5th, 8th, or whatever nomination. Same thing happened last year when the Oscar’s and even the Screen Actors Guild overlooked other long overdue actors like Tim Blake Nelson, Ann Dowd, Jason Issacs, and Peter Dinklage (admittedly, who is beloved by Emmy voters, just not Oscar voters).

Clifton Collins Jr turns in this tremendous performance that reminds me that the kid from Light It Up has grown up a lot. in fact, when I was thinking about him playing an aging jockey, i totally assumed he was younger than he is. He’s 51, more than capable of being a jockey near the end of his career. He carries this film from beginning to end, and it’s the kind of role you just sit in and live in. It’s not a big screaming type of role, full of loud moments, or these scenes where he has to do a lot of “acting”, which is probably why he got lost in translation. Because simply embodying everything about your character and immersing yourself in the realism of your world, while playing a rather quiet, reserved, introspective role just isn’t flashy enough anymore I guess.

it’s a brilliant performance, and his performance is the reason to see the film. Not that the film itself is bad, it’s just a character study. It’s not a heavy handed sad sack emotional dredge, nor is it an inspirational sports drama. It’s just a quiet film about a man nearing the end of his time, a man who is a rather simple man, with one skill set that seems to be slipping from his grasp. And for a moment, just when he’s sure he has nothing left to give, in strolls a young man looking for all the experience and guidance he can offer. Maybe, he’s useful after all.

It’s a quiet film, but a beautiful one.

What Doesn’t Work: Just some little things, some of which also impressed me. Based on what I’ve seen in the credits, and the content in the film, I think a lot of real people were used in the broader supporting cast. i think real jockeys were used in a scene where they all discuss the various maladies that have plagued their careers. I think those were real stories, yet somehow, it felt like non-actors trying to act. I appreciate the attempt at authenticity, but if those were their real stories, i don’t know why it still came across as a guy reading a script who had never read a script before.

And I feel like this is the unavoidable side effect of doing a low budget independent film, but I did miss the aspect of the actual horse racing moments, seeing Clifton Collins Jr in races. I understand we’re trying to protect horses, and a lot of the times we are now using CGI horses, and perhaps the film just didn’t have the budget to do much racing, but it felt to me not like a stylistic choice, but actually more of a “we’re poor, otherwise we’d totally have more horses running.”

Like I said, i can understand and respect the little things, but I still had little things. Also, what I knew from the film going in was simply that it was a good film that Clifton Collins Jr was trying to keep in last year’s Oscar conversation, and it was about an aging jockey. I knew nothing about the son storyline, yet from the moment he has his conversation at the beginning, I knew the beginning, middle, and end of that story arc. And I ended up being right. No spoilers, but i shouldn’t be that good at being able to feel out where an entire story arc is going.

The Blind Perspective: Ms. Wilmore does a lovely job with the narration here, in terms of what is given. I know she doesn’t write the narration, but her tone and quality was perfect for this film. I’d be open to hearing someone narrate this that sounds like a cowboy or something, that might be fun, but it was a nice narration. i think it’s my first from her, though apparently if I go back and rewatch some Disney films, I’m bound to run into her again.

However,I would call this the barebones narration, because it gives you just enough to be able to follow along, without ever immersing you in the world. Sometimes, I find myself filling in the gaps. I use the years I had of absorbing thousands of films and TV shows, and i start playing out a version of what this movie looks like in my mind, and the better the narration, the less work my imagination has to do. Here, i felt like the film gave us just what it thought we needed to know, but a lot about the world around our protagonist is lost. Most of the side characters aren’t really described at all, and you’ll never know what they look like. So where does your brain go, and where does the brain of an individual who has never seen anything go when given sort of a barebones description.

It was enough for me to be able to follow the film, and understand it, but in my experience already with audio description, I’ve had films far more immersive than this. And I’ve also seen more immersive audio description in much harder to describe movies, from tough genres, with a lot of action, science fiction elements, or horror and gore. This is just a quiet meditative drama where our protagonist has a lot of quiet moments where he just sits and thinks. I feel like those moments could have been used more to help shape Jockey so our brains aren’t filling in the rest.

Final Thoughts: The biggest reason to show up is for a strong lead performance, from an actor who consistently knocks it out of the park. The other reason would be that you don’t really get a film like this from this perspective. Sure, we get stuff like Seabiscuit, but those films are always crafted mostly around the legendary horse. Here, the jockey is the legend, not the horse. So, in a way, it is still something fresh in an area that you might not assume is very original.

Final Grade: A-

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