The Art of Racing in the Rain
2019, PG, 109 min. Directed by Simon Curtis. Voice by Kevin Costner. Starring Milo Ventimiglia, Amanda Seyfried, Ryan Kiera Armstrong, Gary Cole, Kathy Baker.
REVIEWED By Katelyn Landry, Fri., Aug. 9, 2019
I don’t have a dog, nor have I ever owned one. No need to sharpen your pitchforks, I just don’t have a stake in the world of canine inner monologue. But I found that The Art of Racing in the Rain isn’t so much about a dog as it is about human compassion seen through the eyes of one.
The film’s leading pooch, Enzo (Costner), gets adopted by aspiring Formula One racer Denny Swift (Ventimiglia) and grows up on the sidelines of racetracks, adoring his talented owner and dreaming of being behind the wheel himself. Swift falls in love (obviously) with Eve (Seyfried), an English teacher who ushers in an era of domestic bliss while still encouraging Swift to pursue his racing dreams. Enter their daughter Zoe (Armstrong) and life takes over from there with Enzo faithfully by the family’s side for much longer than I knew dogs could even live.
The first hour is paced faster than Swift on the track. Seriously, one second Swift is inviting Eve to his buddy’s show, and the next they’re getting hitched, but I suppose that’s what happens when you watch a movie in dog years. The side characters are unfailingly available for Swift’s every need and Eve is endlessly forgiving of her oft-absent husband, temperaments intended to be endearing but are counterproductive to making the characters believable. I can digest unwavering loyalty from man’s best friend, but from man himself? Spare me.
Although predictable, the story still manages to pack an emotional punch and depending on your level of relatability to Swift’s hardships – cancer treatment, custody battles, a stagnant career – it might hit harder than you expect. I was truly waiting for Swift to give up and pick up the bottle, but for all family-friendly intents and purposes, he remains a Good Guy™ thanks to his sidekick, a very good boy. Enzo is undoubtedly Swift’s rock, but the dog doesn’t get an exaggerated hero moment. Rather, Enzo is something of a philosopher, contemplating his eventual reincarnation as a man and analogizing Swift’s racing expertise with sage life advice. In a period obsessed with the inner thoughts of dogs, Enzo’s witty yet heartfelt existentialism is refreshing, and thankfully lacking in squeaky diversions.
Far more important than racing is the rain – that being the film’s overarching metaphor for the unpredictable things in life that threaten to send us crashing into a wall. Enzo succeeds in making each of us acutely aware of our own rain, reminding us to embrace unpredictability and give the unknown the benefit of the doubt. Maybe that’s why I’m not being as cynical as I thought I’d be, so maybe this movie’s job is done.