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With Jim Sabatini

Lean on Pete

Lean on Pete
Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny

Rated: R for language and brief violence.
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: April 6, 2018 Released by: A24 Films

There's plenty of perambulating in this adult-minded and unsentimental coming-of-ager from British writer/director Andrew Haigh (45 Years) centers on a possible new hope for a teen and an aging quarter-horse.

Lean On Pete stars a slim Charlie Plummer, Steve Buscemi and Chloe Sevigny, and it has a nomadic moodiness that is hard to embrace, but an honest tenderness permeates a difficult odyssey where viciousness is just waiting around the corner.

Set in Oregon and moving to Wyoming, Haigh displays a true grit through his 15-year-old lead in Charley Thompson, effortlessly etched inside and out by Plummer (recently in All The Money In the World).

Charley's sluggard, lothario father Ray (Travis Fimmel) is hospitalized by the hubby of his latest lover (a briefly seen Amy Seimetz). So, with mom out of the picture, the young man isn't interested in what the state may offer and finds sanctuary in the stable (pastures) of cantankerous equine owner Del (Buscemi, who's excelled on the big and small screens, from Fargo to Boardwalk Empire).

There is bonding with the eponymous shiny brown, black-eyed steed while some kind of domestic situation is fashioned. This is against the wishes of Del's longtime jockey Bonnie (Sevigny fondly remembered from Boys Don't Cry), and, when conditions change, Charley grabs his new companion and is off to locate his aunt Margy (Alison Elliott of 20th Century Women).

Haigh adeptly works from a 2010 novel by Willy Vlautin to offer up a provocative, poetic cinema hardly of the Black Beauty, Secretariat, and Seabiscuit breed. A troubling, if uplifting humanity is on view as an impetuous Charley comes across a variety of folks on his travels. It's so palpable even as thoughts and point-of-views are less than fully formed to believe in the idealistic philosophy sensed around him. Those he meets includes Silver, evinced in an unctuous ominous way by Steve Zahn (Rescue Dawn, A Perfect Getaway). Others can be generous or witty, even around the lurid where being an eyewitness for too long can be too overwhelming.

Yes, Lean On Pete has a saturnine realism in outlining an elaborate milieu that is rather interpretative by not eschewing what's happening beneath the surface. It almost seems out of another era until late when one of those ubiquitous personal electronic devices gets exposure and their absence may be the reason for how events detour from a cute fable (at least according to detractors). Through enough parlous activity constantly around Charley emphasizes a permeable nature of socio-economic strata that demands more than enough authenticity than just checking out the race circuit and picaresque Western scenery.

  Frank Chris Jim Dave Gerry Matt Claudette Jennifer Audralee Nina  Avg. 
Lean on Pete        B+                        B+ 

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