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Dreamer – Inspired by a True Story (A Movie Review)

Updated: Oct 24, 2021

Dreamer - Based on a True Story

Dreamer – Based on a True Story


Starring Kurt Russell, Dakota Fanning, Kris Kristofferson, Elisabeth Shue, David Morse, Freddy Rodriguez, Luis Guzman, Oded Fehr, Ken Howard, Holmes Osborne, Antonio Albadran, John Moyer, Karen Butler, Tommy Barnes, Frank Hoyt Taylor and Dick Allen.

Screenplay by John Gatins.

Directed by John Gatins.

Distributed by Dreamworks SKG. 98 minutes.  Rated PG-13.

You can tell just from the title that Dreamer – Inspired by a True Story is as old-fashioned, sturdy and just slightly corny as the heartland farm where it takes place.  It is a movie that wants to be the personification of the American dream; the story of poor underdogs who through pluck, determination and hard work are able to buck the odds and achieve their dreams.  These are good people from sturdy stock who live purely, love their extended family and are rewarded for their reverence.  It is a film completely free of cynicism, irony or even much of a sense of humor.  It is the perfect red state movie.

It is also a surprisingly involving movie.  Even though you know pretty much everything which will happen in the movie within the first fifteen minutes, it is hard to be so cold hearted that you will not be thawed by this formulaic-but-charming story.

Kurt Russell plays Ben Crane, owner of the only horse farm in the state with no horses.  He is the estranged son of a legendary horseman (Kris Kristofferson plays the father, who does not appear to have a name, he is just known by all as Pops.)  Due to monetary woes, Ben has had to sell off most of the family land and had to take a job as a horse whisperer for a selfish, uncaring multimillionaire (played by David Morse) who treats the horses as commodities.

Ben is asked by his hard-working-but-eternally-cheerful-and-supportive wife (Elisabeth Shue) to take their adorable daughter Cale (Dakota Fanning) to the track with him for work.  While there, she meets the poor-but-lovable stable-workers (Luis Guzman and Freddie Rodriguez) and a budding champion horse named Sonador.  When the mare is injured because the greedy owner disregards Ben’s advice not to race her, Ben refuses to put down the animal in front of his eleven-year-old daughter.  This costs him his job, but in lieu of back payment, Ben accepts the hobbled horse.

Ben sees the horse as a business possibility, she is a thoroughbred child of champions who could make a fortune through going out to stud.  Cale falls in love with the horse and decides that they can heal it to a point where it can race again.  So as an act of love, Ben signs ownership of the horse to his daughter, allowing her to live out her dreams with the horse.

The subtitle trumpets that Dreamer is “Inspired by a True Story” (which is not exactly the same thing as being a true story) and while there is enough happening here that seems like it probably is just poetic license, the film mostly does ring true and sincere.

This is probably because the cast is to a one stolidly behind the the story.  Great old pros like Russell, Kristofferson, Shue and Morse play their archetypal characters as if they were completely new.   Guzman and Rodriguez (from Six Feet Under) bring a wonderful heart and lightness to the film.  And Fanning shows, yet again, why she sometimes seems to be the only child actress working today; her performance is subtle, restrained and clearly moving.

Dreamer is a well-worn and aged story, but despite its familiarity, it reverberates with heart and hope.  (10/05)

Jay S. Jacobs

Copyright ©2005  All rights reserved. Posted: November 6, 2005.

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