FILM REVIEW: "Lean on Pete" is unexpectedly grim and gritty
Lean on Pete is a movie about a young boy who, already on the back foot in life, slowly heads towards the very margins of American society.
Protagonist Charley (Charlie Plummer) begins the film living hand to mouth with his father in the semi-rural outskirts of Portland. He is quite obviously his father’s carer, and his pride when he is able to bring home food and a wage from his part-time job with unscrupulous horse trainer Del (played by Steve Buscemi) is palpable. He is a young man desperate for adult approval and guidance, but every adult in his life fails him - whether it’s potential father figure Del, hard nosed jockey Bonnie (Chloe Sevigny) or the seemingly kind hearted ally Silver (Steve Zahn).
It’s fitting then that failed racehorse Lean on Pete is his companion as he starts out on his journey to reach his aunt, the last relative he has by the film's end and his one hope for salvation from the reality that is Trump’s America.
Watching Charley is an exercise in resilience. The film is so tightly focused on Charley’s character that, as the audience, it is impossible not to feel for him every time he is betrayed. We are constantly rooting for him to reach his aunt and find stability, while at the same time we are left not understanding how he could possibly continue after being hurt so many times.
The scenery of Oregon and Portland is breathtaking, and the wide open spaces are juxtaposed nicely with tightly cramped inner city scenes. In fact, the scenery is what makes Somerville Auditorium the ideal venue to see this movie. Being under the pines and listening to the wind over the Swan River adds to the epic feeling of this film. It also buffers you from some of the more violent scenes, bathing you in the affluence of Perth's golden triangle that seeps in from the UWA grounds.
However, this movie is unrelentingly grim for 120 of its 121 minute running time. By all means go see this movie and remind yourself of your win in the lottery that is life, but make sure your anti-depressant script is filled first.