“Ride Like a Girl” is the kind of movie you want to root for. Based on a true story, it yearns to be an inspirational sports drama about a woman overcoming the odds in a male-dominated sport. Unfortunately, this Australian horse racing film remains a standard underdog narrative that fails to rouse the audience from their seats, despite the best efforts from its cast and a few charming moments.
Under the guiding hand of father Paddy (a warm Sam Neill), the lives of the Payne siblings revolve around horse racing and roughhousing, and daughter Michelle (Teresa Palmer) isn’t about to let her gender keep her from the family business. She battles sexism in the sport, always keeping her eye on the ultimate prize: Racing in the Melbourne Cup, which had never been won by a female jockey.
“Ride Like a Girl” is sweet, particularly in the palpable family bond between characters played by Neill, Palmer and Stevie Payne, who stars as himself: Michelle’s younger brother with Down syndrome. But while the film is amiable enough, it never truly inspires real interest in either Michelle’s story or in the sport as a whole.
Details — and even whole plot points — are skimmed over or skipped entirely. As actress Rachel Griffiths’ directorial debut, “Ride Like a Girl” never finds its rhythm, alternately moving too fast and too slow, as it often leaves the audience behind in the dust.
Running time: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Playing: Starts March 13, Lumiere Music Hall, Beverly Hills; also on VOD