Looking Back at 2010s Films: Lean on Pete (2018)

7 Oct

Lean-on-pete-header

By Tanner Smith

Continuing my series of Looking Back at 2010s Films, I missed “Lean on Pete” in theaters–I didn’t even know about it. But when I worked at Vintage Stock and we got a series of trailers for upcoming DVD releases, I noticed one with many festival laurels and critical blurbs praising it–the sound wasn’t on the TV set that displayed the trailer, and it just looked like a typical boy-and-his-horse story. But if film critic Richard Roeper gave it four stars, I knew it would be anything but “typical.”

When it was released on DVD, I rented it, checked it out…and was blown away.

“Lean on Pete” is a film about a 15-year-old boy who gets a job looking after an aging racehorse, named Lean On Pete. He learns the horse is bound for slaughter because he’s slowing up, and when he ends up in a situation where he may go into care, he steals Lean On Pete and sets off on a journey to find his aunt, with whom he hasn’t been in contact for years.

Think “The Grapes of Wrath” meets “The 400 Blows.”

“Lean on Pete” is a beautiful film–not always heartwarming but always compelling. The kid in this movie, Charley (played by Charlie Plummer), is a good kid who endures many hardships (and sometimes has to do the wrong thing to get ahead), and it’s so hard not to root for him to find what he’s looking for. What IS he looking for? He just wants a place to call “home.”

My favorite scene comes late in the film, in which Charley is walking with Lean On Pete through the frontier and he tells him about a time when he was invited to breakfast by one of his friends. This kid’s a football jock, so you would think he’s got other things to talk about. But no–he was just happy to be accepted somewhere with people he liked. That’s all he wants. Like Marge from “Fargo” or Atticus Finch from “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Charley from “Lean on Pete” has learned what others need spelled out for them–that the simplest pleasures are the greatest treasures.

I remember seeing this kid Charlie Plummer represent a film he starred in four years ago (called “King Jack”) at the Little Rock Film Festival and thinking he’d have a great career ahead of him. Well now, he’s been in a Ridley Scott film (“All the Money in the World”), he was considered for the MCU’s Spider-Man for a while, he’s appeared in a few more indie flicks (including the thriller “The Clovehitch Killer”)–he’s barely 20 years old; I hope he keeps up the good work!

Charlie Plummer IS this film. If “Lean on Pete” works for you, then it’s because of him. If “Lean on Pete” doesn’t work for you, meaning you don’t tear up or at least feel some kind of sympathy for this kid, then you might be dead. Take that for what it’s worth.

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