This movie is the story of Michelle Payne. She was the first female jockey to win the Melbourne Cup. The great cast includes: Teresa Palmer as Michelle Payne, Sam Neill as Paddy Payne, Brooke Satchwell as Therese Payne, Sullivan Stapleton as Darren Weir, Sophia Forrest as Cathy Payne, Magda Szubanski as Sister Dominique, Genevieve Morris as Joan Sadler, Aaron Glenane as Patrick Payne, Zara Zoe as Maree Payne, Henry Nixon as Andrew Payne, Mick Molloy as Bairdy, Shane Bourne as Trevor Smart, Jacob Warner as Gary Small, Stevie Payne as Stevie Payne and Summer North as Young Michelle.
The text "For 150 Years the Melbourne cup has been famous. Royalty and business men have always followed it". We then see a documentary of a little girl whose mother died. A family of 10 kids. The family must have been hard to organise. Even as a kid this little girl said she wanted to win the Melbourne Cup. Now we see her grown up in a horse race. She is called Michelle Payne (played by the gorgeous Teresa Palmer).We see Michelle at the starting gate in a horse race. "Mum... stay with me" she says. We then cut to the father (Paddy Payne played by the experienced Sam Neil) driving the family to church. This time period is when Michelle was stil a very young girl.
The kids play up in church. The family has a christmas dinner. The older sister is begging the dad for a start in a race. Her trainer won't place her. The kids play up at dinner. They joke around with Michelle and she gets upset and leaves.
"'If mum were here she'd stop them pulling my hair'. 'She is still here, looking after us' says Paddy. Paddy tests Michelle's Melbourne Cup knowledge. The father sees Michelle sleeping in the horses resting quarters, he smiles. You kind of feel sorry for Michelle, great introduction to the character"
In the morning she rides for practice. Beautiful scenes in the paddock. Great landscape. The eldest son has a leg injury. It's the day of his race. Paddy father tapes him up. Bridgette is racing today. That night the son is doubting himself.
"'The only thing that matters is your confidence' says Paddy. Michelle watches the race at school on the TV. 'How can a horse that starts off winning come last' she says to Paddy. He replies 'That's The Melbourne Cup... and that means if your last you can come first'. Sam Neil puts in a super performance as a resilient father who looks after his kids"
Now Michelle has grown up to be a teenager. At school she listens to races over the radio. The father teaches her how to ride.
"They go to the race track, he teaches her how to feel the grass track. This detail will win her a race he thinks. He continues and says 'A winner Perceveres with their heart'. I love this scene. It is clear that there is a spiritual side to racing"
In her next race there is a sign "Female Jockey" for her change room which she finds amusing. She comes last. Stevie (played by the real Stevie Payne) is her little brother and he's funny. He predicted that she came last. In the next race, last again.
"In the following race we see close up shots of the horses galloping, cool scenes, right inside the action"She wins her first race! But Bridget her sister has had a fall and passes away.
The family is hurting. Paddy has a chat to Michelle. She wants to ride with Ginger but she is still an apprentice. He refuses and calls for patience. "I want to be the best... how long do I have to wait" she says. "I'm not your little girl" she says to Paddy angrily. Stevie looks on.
Michelle drives to another race track. She says she is available for trackwork. A man trainer called Bairdy (played by the funny Mick Molloy) chats to her. At night she goes there again and see a famous male jockey. Photographers surround him. She looks on with interest. Michelle chats to another trainer about just doing trackwork. Her other sister is retiring, she's getting married. Michelle rides the next day in this new track.
She rides in a mechanical horse device hehe She wakes up at 3am in the morning every day. The mother wants her to call her father. She gets a Group 1 race! This is what she's always wanted.
"On racing day her little brother visits her and says he put $10 on her for a place win hehehe. Great acting by Stevie Payne. Stevie has plenty of heart and is always there for his sister"
Stevie pats a horse. The race begins.
"We see dynamic close ups of the horses and we feel the intensity of the race. Great camera work and sound design"Michelle wins! But the best jockey says she put the whole field in danger. He says he nearly lodged a complaint. Michelle comes late to her sister's wedding. She is dressed up and looking good. She slots into the bridesmaids that are lined up hehe.
Paddy does a toast and celebrates his daughters. His father toasts Stevie (Michelle thought it was going to be her). Michelle doesn't eat a thing as she has to prepare herself for the next race! She's trying to get to 50kg! Everybody is joyous at the wedding. Michelle looks kind of worried and tense.
"That night she wraps herself in glad wrap and garbage bin bags and she runs. This is to lose weight by sweating. She then drives off to the track. I didn't know that jockeys had to do this type of thing for weightloss. What commitment. It was an interesting scene"
Next day she arrives at the track. She goes into the Sauna. She gets to 50kg! The race begins and once again great sound and visuals. Close ups are awesome. Her horse falls and Michelle goes down. She can't move. Suspenseful moment. The father and the sisters find out. She is unresponsive on the ground. At the hospital the doctors say that there is bleeding in the brain. Paddy gets furious and kicks a bin. Great acting by Sam Neil.
"I've lost two of them father" says Paddy to the priest. Michelle wakes up. Stevie consoles her. Michelle can't talk. She can't spell her name or count. But Paddy asks her about Melbourne Cup jockies and she replies! She uses a walker device at home. She spills the milk. "When can I ride again?" asks Michelle. At home she forces herself to ride a small horse. The father looks on.
"There is a reason they call it the most dangerous sport in the world" says Paddy's female friend. The father allows her.
"Michelle starts training. She rides on the beach. Beautiful scenes and backdrop of the sea and waves. Great soundtrack too. She wants to ride a particular horse called "Prince of Penzance". The trainer agrees. Stevie and her train the horse. Michelle wins her next race with Prince of Penzance"
At the Mooney valley Cup Michelle wins but there is a protest. Michelle is charged with careless riding. "The gap was there to be taken" she says. The win is upheld. But she is suspended and can't ride Prince of Penzanz again. Her father has a heart attack.
"In hospital Michelle says she's found the one... it's a prince. "How many legs has he got" the father says. There is some great humour thrown in through out the movie"
That night Michelle sleeps at her family home and chats to Stevie.
"I love you... your my brother" she says to Stevie. Stevie and Michelle have always been there for each other"The lady friend says to Michelle "He's gone" and Michelle starts crying thinking that her father has passed on. She then sees her father walk into the room! hehe. The lady friend had been talking about something else!
Michelle walks into the managers meeting. She gives a speech even though they dont want her. Its emotional. Great acting. The trainer accepts her. Stevie picks the barrier number 2 for her.
"'The only thing that matters is the odds you give yourself' she remembers Paddy saying. I love the sayings/advice that Paddy gives Michelle through out the movie. They are inspirational"
She arrrives at the Melbourne Cup finely dressed and looking great with her training bag. She has her own changing room. The Melbourne Cup set design and the Randwick race course setting looks authentic. The film crew may have shot it at randwick. The jockeys get introduced; "Michelle Payne...".
The trainer gives his last words... he says she is at 100 to 1 and wants her to finish in the top 10. Stevie says to her "I know the horse can, it's going to be a champion". Michelle nods to Damien Oliver.
"The horses get positioned, we see every detail. 'Mum, Bridge, stay with me' she says to herself. Teresa Palmer plays this underdog character to perfection. What a great performance"
The gates open to a thunderous sound. You hear the sounds of the horses galloping. We see TV footage and close up footage. We see the faces of the jockeys shouting orders to their horses. Michelle is holding her position at the back. Suddenly a gap opens and she takes it! She remembers her dads advice. She's on the outside! Then she goes for it and passes the first horse by a length and wins!
The announcer says this is history. The first lady to win the Melbourne Cup. Michelle is in tears. After everything she went through. To come out a winner was phenomenal. She has a quiet moment to herself in the changing room. She is exhausted. They put the actual Melb Cup next to the photo of her mother. In a beautiful final scene... father and daughter walk up the horses paddock. We then see real footage of Michelle. Text says that Michelle stayed true to her promise... she bought a farm with Stevie.
"I haven't seen that many horse racing movies. But Ride Like a Girl is an enjoyable movie. Teresa Palmer excelled as the underdog Michelle Payne. Stevie Payne played himself and he did it well! Plenty of heart shown by him. Sam Neil consistently puts in realistic performances and this movie was no exception"Simple plot but with some nice challenges and detours. The supporting cast (Michelle's family and all the trainers/jockeys) also did excellent. Enjoy the entertaining 1hr 38min.