One You Might've Missed #07: Let It Ride


by: Jeremey Gingrich

Finding diamonds in the rough is a wonderful feeling, but in order to do so, you usually have to watch a lot of bad movies. takes the pain away by recommending a movie that you may have never heard of, or missed when it first came out.

Too often, when a movie is made about horses, it speaks to their majesty as in BLACK BEAUTY or the underdog story of inspiration as in SEABISCUIT or Disney’s RACING STRIPES (though admittedly that was a zebra), but there was one movie, back in 1989, that celebrated the people that made up the truly diverse racetrack experience and that was director Joe Pytka’s LET IT RIDE, starring Richard Dreyfuss in what I believe to be his second funniest role of his career (GOODBYE GIRL won him an Oscar for a reason).

In LET IT RIDE, Dreyfuss plays Jay Trotter, a cab driver whose marriage is on the rocks – to a firecracker of a wife played by Teri Garr, who gets some great screaming matches- and in an effort to save the marriage Jay offers to give up gambling. This is a noticeable sacrifice when he goes to the track the next day – yes, the day after making the promise – believing he has a line on a sure thing, and we see he is a regular at the dive bar across the street, known for years by the motley crew of resident gamblers and even some of the lower level staff of the track itself, after years of feeding his habit betting on the horses.

This motley crew runs the gamut of track regulars, and that gamut grows as Trotter wins throughout the day and we go from the dive bar across the street, to the upper-crust Jockey Club overlooking the track. Trotter’s friend, Looney, played by David Johanson (also known as singer Buster Poindexter from the big 80’s pop hit “Hot,Hot,Hot”), is called by Trotter “the unluckiest person in the world.” He plays the lovable loser who even gives blood during the day for more track money. There’s also Robbie Coltrane sporting an American accent as a cashier at Trotter’s ticket window. Jennifer Tilly is seen here, sexy as she’s ever been, as Vicki, the trophy girl to a rich jerk at the Jockey Club. And even a pre-SEX IN THE CITY Cynthia Nixon plays an underage newbie to the track who catches the gambling bug during the course of the day.

But the strength of the movie, or in any movie where money is gambled, is the reaction to each race performed with perfect histrionics by Richard Dreyfuss. Trotter flails and screams at the horses and the track, throws beer on Looney, even screams at God, “I thought we had a deal!” It’s hard not to root for a guy who goes through such pain in every race. And when he wins, his celebratory tantrums are that much funnier. I’ve thought it since JAWS, Richard Dreyfuss has one of the funniest laughs in the movies.

LET IT RIDE celebrates the track, its highs and its lows, and the variety of people you’ll meet if you spend any random day down at the horse track, or even an Off Track Betting spot for that matter. Everybody has a system or a theory on picking a winner, and those people can go from supporting your losses, to bitterly envying your wins as quick as the opening of a starting gate. This movie shows that roller coaster while following one funny little man’s “very good day” at the track.

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