RIDE LIKE A GIRL – “Everyone Else Can Get Stuffed”

Aussies love a battler story and there is no better battler story this year than RIDE LIKE A GIRL. A film I thought little of when I saw the trailer, thinking more along the lines of “I wish we could avoid the controversy of posting a story about the Melbourne Cup.” But then Kernel Claire headed along and watched it with a bunch of other critics and now all I want to do is see it as soon as possible and am more than stoked to be posting it on Salty Popcorn. There is nothing but praise raining down on this film. A true Aussie wonder that needs to be seen.

RIDE LIKE A GIRL is out today, Thur 26th September, in Australia from the wonderful folks at Transmission Films. It is rated PG and runs for 98mins.

Check out Kernel Claire’s wonderful review and get thee to a local cinema and support this amazing film…..all the best….Salty.

Ride Like a Girl Teresa Palmer
Teresa Palmer

BY CLAIRE SMITH

RIDE LIKE A GIRL SYNOPSIS: THE LITTLE AUSSIE BATTLERETTE

RIDE LIKE A GIRL follows the true story of Michelle Payne – the winning jockey of the 2015 Melbourne Cup. Payne is the first female jockey to win the race that stops a nation. Not only did she fight her way back from insurmountable injuries, she did so in one of the most male-dominated (yet non gender-segregated) commercial sports. The story follows Payne’s life from the hustle and bustle of her childhood through to the heart-stopping two-mile history-making dash to the finish line in 2015.  

Ride Like a Girl Sam Neill and Teresa Palmer
Sam Neill and Teresa Palmer

ACTING: GIDDY UP FOR STEVIE

RIDE LIKE A GIRL is a beautiful example of the simple brilliance of Aussie cinema. It’s not overly scripted, but it allows the beautiful backdrops and the nuanced performances of the seasoned (and new!) performers speak for themselves. 

There’s a veritable haystack worth of good old Aussie actors in this film. Seeing them crop up as the story progresses is like going to a theatre show and seeing your old friends take to the stage one by one. 

The story’s lead, Michelle Payne is played by Teresa Palmer (LIGHTS OUT, WARM BODIES, HACKSAW RIDGE). She’s an absolute ringer for the real deal. If only a small dental gap between her front teeth had been pencilled in, Palmer would have passed for Payne herself if they switched licenses. Her mannerisms, her pitch and tone – all spot on. 

The supporting cast of the Payne family and beyond is a who’s-who of Aussie actors. Daddy Paddy Payne is played by the inimitable Sam Neill (JURASSIC PARK, HUNT FOR THE WILDERPEOPLE, PALM BEACH). He’s concerned, he’s curmudgeonly, he’s just divine. We heart Sam Neill. 

Brooke Satchwell of SEA CHANGE, WATER RATS and PACKED TO THE RAFTERS plays the concerned older sister Therese Payne. There’s a believable humility to Satchwell’s small-town, sisterly character – and the family resemblance is striking. 

Keep an eye out as well for Sister Dominique – a nun of Payne’s high school. Played by the oh so recognisable Magda Szubanski (KATH AND KIM, BABE, HAPPY FEET).  She’s stern, she’s concerned, she’s praying on the sacred urn. We love you Magda!

The absolute standout, steal the show and come back for a second curtain call is from Stevie Payne. Played by the man himself, Stevie is Michelle Payne’s real-life brother and strapper (AKA groomer/stablehand). He’s currently thirty five years old, has Down Syndrome and Michelle Payne dedicated her Melbourne Cup win to him – there’s no one else more suited to play himself in this biopic. It’s as much Stevie’s story as it is Michelle’s. His performance is believable, natural and it enriched the story knowing that this was his actual lived experience. 

It was an excellent decision from superstar director Rachel Griffiths (MURIEL’S WEDDING, SIX FEET UNDER, BROTHERS AND SISTERS) to incorporate Stevie himself into the film. It’s a wonderful, working example of where inclusive cinema casting can really enhance the story. 

Ride Like a Girl Teresa Palmer and Stevie Payne
Teresa Palmer and Stevie Payne

STORYLINE – DOES IT PLOD OR GALLOP?

The events leading up to the race are absolutely astounding. Payne had to literally learn to walk and talk again after a devastating fall during a race in 2001 where she fractured her skull and bruised her brain. Determined to put the injury behind her, she worked horse riding in to her physical therapy and was undeterred by the injuries she sustained.

Her winning horse Prince of Penzance also had a history of injuries and together they found a sort of “bruised comrades” connection.

Apart from the injuries and the race itself, the storyline is reasonably simple. There’s some family illnesses and the usual tragedies that are to be expected in any true story worth telling; but the main drawcard is the determination and true grit of Payne.  

Ride Like a Girl Magda Szubanski
Magda Szubanski

“They think women aren’t strong enough but we just beat the world”

Although RIDE LIKE A GIRL is at its heart a fairy tale story of overcoming adversity and beating the odds, it’s far from being a man-slamming, boy hating, bra burning women’s anger film. Scenes of injustice aren’t dwelled upon. Payne takes challenges in her stride and focuses on the race. Subtle examples of assumed privilege are shown – for example there were no female change facilities at some of the race courses, so Payne has to change in the storage room at the back of the tuck shop. No snarky comments are made, but the overly chauvinistic bystander is shown gobsmacked at the heart-stopping 2015 win. It’s small, but it’s enough to bring to light the male-oriented realm that Payne has strode through to land the incredible hundred to one odds win. 

Ride Like a Girl Teresa Palmer
Teresa Palmer

YAY OR NEIGH?

RIDE LIKE A GIRL is a stunning example of an Aussie film. It’s got heart where it counts. The true events are incredible and Payne is admirable as the little Aussie that could. It’s one of those movies where you could take the kids and the grandparents along, and everyone would have a good time. Worth noting as well that no animals were harmed in the making of the film. Regardless of your feelings around the race (we know it’s a controversial topic at best) you can watch RIDE LIKE A GIRL and know that no horses were harmed. Support local cinema and spend an afternoon in the saddle for this one. 

YOUR CRITIC:

Kernel Claire retired from the Salty Popcorn cob in 2014 with full honors, but was lured back to the shine of the silver screen and the Salt of the Popcorn a mere four years later. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for over 13yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.

** Images used are courtesy of various sources on Google or direct from the distributor or publisher. Credit has been given to photographers where known – images will be removed on request.