Monday, January 16, 2006

Truth of the Sum of It

I used to think the most courageous thing one could do is let it all out, not hide behind any walls, let it all flap in the breeze. To this end I always loved a quote from my favorite singer/songwriter from the Iron Range who once said that his songs are like dreams but they aren't fantasy. The difference? Dreams are rooted in reality where fantasy can be all made up from somebody's imagination. Under this interpretation dreams are somewhat true while fantasy is usually all make believe. And who wants to close his eyes in order to see?

My personal perspective seems to be shifting these days, trying to find some shade, trying to linger in the shadows for a while. The simple question I grappled with all week was 'what is truth?' Is it for example, the same thing as honesty? Seems to me like they are related but only as much as three cats involuntary brought together under one roof for the majority of their lives.

I had some spare time this week trying to avoid the brunt of rush hour traffic in the western metro suburbs so I stopped to watch the movie Dreamer starring Dakota Fanning, Kurt Russell, Kris Kristofferson, and my second favorite actress, Elizabeth Shue, in an inspirational story about a racehorse that breaks its leg and eventually comes back to race in the Breeder's Cup.

The movie begins with the disclaimer that almost always makes me dismiss a movie, "based on a true story" yet I didn't dislike this movie. Rather I was quite moved by it. Yes, this is the kind of sports movie about plucky underdogs (or in this case gimpy horses) that we've all seen about a hundred and fifty thousand times. Still the story is told so well and the quality of the cast (can anyone believe how talented Ms. Fanning is at her age?) that Dreamer proves that even in a movie where we can predict every step along the way, we can tolerate the obvious if there is a great big heart behind the telling of the tale.

So what's true about the story of Dreamer? Turns out there was a real life horse named Mariah's Storm that broke her leg and went on to win the 1995 Breeder's Cup. The stuff about a little girl's unwavering faith in both her father and the horse? That part was embellished.

I teared up a couple of different times during the movie. See I'm a sucker for animal stories. Waking up every morning to a grunting three-legged cat who has patiently dozed during the night and knows meal time is around the corner just a mere hop down the stairs, has kept my heart from turning completely to stone. Yeah I knew I was being manipulated by Dreamer and I knew it's claim to the truth was probably a tad misleading but I bought the story hook, line, and sinker. In the end I wanted the made up horse, Sonador, to kick some butt.

One of the key elements of the story of Dreamer is the importance of the 'keep on keeping on' philosophy in the face of uphill odds; the easiest thing maybe to throw in the towel and end things right then and there in the dirt of a circular racetrack, but the easiest thing may be a hard thing to do if one doesn't want to disappoint another.

Shue's character of the sympathetic wife and mother is the least fleshed out of the movie and yet she plays the key role in the story. She won't let her husband disappoint her daughter nor will she let him off the hook for not seeing how his fatalistic attitude has been given a second chance by a horse that has no chance despite being given an unusual second shot at it all.

As the too young to sit still girl behind me kicked my seat and chomped her popcorn with mouth open making it hard to hear, I could relate to Russell's character's discomfort at being at an evening's parent/teacher thingie and being forced to accept some truth in the word's of his daughter's essay. The scene made me want to run from ever being a parent, and wishing I still was one all at the same time. It showed that not only do dreams sometimes come true, but also that there are times dreams are true.

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