Reviewed by: Brett Willis
|Featuring:||Gabrielle Anwar, Michael Schoeffling, Cliff Robertson, Dylan Kussman, Kathleen York, Frank Renzulli, Nancy Moore Atchison, Lisa Norman, Lorianne Collins, Elizabeth Hayes, Laura Lee Norton, Michael J. Matusiak, Jeff Woodward, David Massry, Cheri Brown, David Dwyer, Haley Aull, Ed L. Grady, Katy Matson, Wendy Ball, Sam Aull, Carson Aull, Boyd Peterson, Gene Walker, Lowell D. Smith, Rick Warner, Mark Jeffrey Miller|
|Producer:||Walt Disney Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV, Pegasus Entertainment, Sarah Brock, Robin S. Clark, Oley Sassone, Matt Williams|
|Distributor:||Walt Disney (Buena Vista Pictures)|
This film, based on a true story, reminds me of the old saw: When life hands you a lemon, make lemonade.
Sonora Webster is a young orphaned schoolgirl (played convincingly by 20-year-old Gabrielle Anwar) facing the height of the Great Depression in 1932. Outside of her love for horses, she doesn’t have much going in life. Stubborn and headstrong, she’s in trouble at school and in the home of her aunt and is about to be sent to a state institution. Instead, she sets out on her own, intending to become a “diving girl” in Dr. Carver’s stunt act (a horse climbs a 40-foot ramp, the girl mounts at the top and they dive together into a shallow pool). Dr. Carver (Cliff Robertson) is gruff and hard-driving and alienates everyone around him; his son Al (Michael Schoeffling) is a gambler and woman-chaser who might even want to teach the underage Sonora a thing or two; and the entrenched diving girl, Marie (Kathleen York), is snotty and very jealous of any competition. So how did they tell this story in a believable yet G-rated manner? It wasn’t easy, but director Steve Miner (“Forever Young”) managed to pull it off.
Sonora knows enough to steer clear of Al’s cheap attentions; and she loves working with horses, even if it’s only as a stable hand. When channeled correctly, her strong will is an asset rather than a liability. Over time, almost everything changes for the better. Then, just when Sonora is on the brink of success, more tragedy strikes. Can she recover again? The answer is worth seeing.
Content Notes: No profanity. A touch of very obscure suggestive dialog. Interpersonal conflict, and some slaps and punches to the head. One off-screen death. A number of people who are initially at odds with each other eventually develop mutual respect and affection.
I recommend this film.