The Art of Racing in the Rain: A New Classic American Drama

With a racing sports theme lurking in the background, Director Simon Curtis could have easily turned this wonderful family drama into a simplistic man conquering his fears through winning motif. This is the common way most films in this genre resolve their plots. Yet screenwriter Mark Bomback refuses to engage in such simplistic resolutions and instead focuses more on the struggles of his protagonist, Denny Swift (Milo Ventimiglia), and his desire to keep his daughter from succumbing to the earth of her maternal grandparents. All this goes on under the framing device of the brilliant voice-over work of Kevin Costner (Enzo the dog) who helps keep the audience engaged while also narrating the exposition from an innocent perspective. Not a single frame is wasted on useless banter or plot filler. From its actor performances to the sad conclusion, this film touches upon every aspect of the human condition all under the watchful loving eyes of the family’s canine voice. 

The Performances

Ventimiglia by far deserves the praise in his tour de force performance as a down and out race car driver trying to make his name in the world of motorsports, while all along trying to keep his family together. There are many times in the second act of the film where you feel his sense of pain while his respecting his decision to keep on racing even after he and his daughter endure a painful tragedy. Amanda Seyfried (Avery Swift) delivers a heartfelt performance as Ventimiglia’s dutiful wife who encourages her husband to keep racing even after it seems his career is all but over. The acting is real and heartfelt, with each character resembling the common American family next door who cannot avoid their own fates. The plot twist halfway through the film is gut-wrenching with Seyfried’s emotionality saturating every frame during those intimate moments between her and Enzo. Truth, in its purest form, becomes the foundation for these characters and it is something that is truly missing in most mainstream cinema. 

The Plot Structure and Writing Take Charge

In a film so heavily entrenched in the man dig relationship of Enzo and Denny, the audience is never exposed to the sappy side that other films tend to resort to. The true strength of this drama is centered on the charm of its screenwriter who uses the nativity of Enzo to enlighten viewers to the joys and horrors that this film endures. The plot has some heavy twists, which spoiler-free, sets up a new antagonism between the protagonist and his in-laws, Martin Donovan (Maxwell) and Kathy Baker (Trish). It feels at times as if this second twist could have served as the main plot while racing could have remained in the peripheral throughout the entirety of the three acts. 
Enzo holds so much depth as a canine companion that ever sentence he speaks wraps viewers into the tribulations of the Swift family that he actually acquired an almost human-like feel to his persona. This is why the writing of this drama is so highly praised because each of the film’s characters is so well thought out that it is easy to see both sides of their argument by the time of the story’s conclusion. Racing merely frames the exposition and never supersedes the raw human emotion of its characters. Much like Rocky uses boxing as its metaphor for life, the speedway here becomes the canvas upon which the meaning of life is explored. Never pervasive but always accessible.  Suck exemplary performances coupled with the film’s plot structure help elevate this drama above many of its predecessors in the genre. The writing never revolves into hyperbole which lends the emotionality of its characters a raw truth. Something that other contemporary mainstream films should take notice of. 

The Verdict  
For anyone seeking a fast-paced sports racer than this is not the film for you. Nothing except for the surface of this genre piece resembles a sports drama. Between the direction and writing of this movie, audiences are treated to the totality of a film going experience that overcomes the simplicity of its original milieu and reaches new heights of dramatic achievements through the performances of its realistic cast. Nothing is left for want in this work of art that makes audiences laugh and cry at the tumultuous journey of the Swift family. All this while Enzo lends a watchful eye on the heartaches of those around him. Simply a magical film going experience that should not be missed. 

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About Anthony Frisina 65 Articles
Anthony Frisina is a graduate of the City University of New York-Brooklyn College with a BA in Political Science with a minor in Psychology. After finishing his undergraduate degree, Anthony went on to attend Brooklyn College's Film Academy and Writer's workshop program, achieving an interdisciplinary degree in Screenwriting and Film theory in the Fine Arts. Transforming his love for classic American cinema, Anthony went on to adapt a number of his own works into different mediums, including his well-received Western novel The Regulator. Anthony likes to spend his free time writing articles for magazines and periodicals that cover a wide range of topics, from science fiction to popular culture. As a screenwriter, Anthony has had his screenplays featured at numerous spec script writing competitions across the country where he one day hopes to write the next great American film.

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