The last time I saw Canadian actress Molly Parker her midwife (last-minute REPLACEMENT midwife) was being swept-up, Tasmanian devil-like, into the 24-minute-long take at the beginning of “Pieces of a Woman”. As a medical doctor who left clinical medicine to specialize in Pathology and then, more specifically, Hematopathology, I have enormous admiration for my medical colleagues who have to handle one crisis after another as part of their daily routine. During that take, Parker’s midwife goes through a sea of emotions from EVERYTHING IS UNDER CONTROL to CAREFULLY DISGUISED CONCERN to WE’VE GOT TO GET THE BABY OUT NOW to ENORMOUS RELIEF to OMG SOMETHING IS SERIOUSLY WRONG HERE and she gets it just right. For those few minutes she IS the embodiment of a health care professional and in “Jockey” she acts like she has been around horses her entire life. She plays Ruth, the horse trainer friend of Jackson (Clifton Collins Jr.) an aging jockey who is plagued by health problems (the movie opens with his doctor telling him you’ve got to stop now or else..) who wants to win just one last race. Collins Jr. has been rightly praised for his performance. He is an excellent character actor whose face you recognize even though you may not know his name – isn’t that the definition of a great character actor? – and right now you can see him as a carnival barker in “Nightmare Alley”, his typical small disposable role. However, in this movie, all of his best scenes are with Parker. They have a lovely rapport based on their shared love of horses, and when they get a little drunk and let their guard down, there is a suggestion that there might be something deeper or a history of something deeper between them. It was also during these scenes that remembered where I had noticed (I mean REALLY noticed) Collins Jr. before: playing accused murderer Perry Smith to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Truman Capote in the 2005 movie “Capote”. Their scenes together were crucial in Hoffman’s Oscar win.
Elsewhere the film is more uneven though director Clint Bentley, whose father was a jockey, knows his way around a track and their is a good scene where the other jockeys (mostly real jockeys and some other non-professional actors) get together and talk about their lives and their endless series of injuries. Even a hackneyed subplot in which a newly arrived young jockey in-the-making may or may not be be Jackson’s long lost son gets by thanks to the expert performance of Moises Arias who is a few inches shorter than Collins Jr. and perfect jockey material.
So, even though we know that THAT race will happen, there are many incidental pleasures along the way to make “Jockey” well worth seeing.
NOW SHOWING AT SELECT THEATRES