Frank Capua is a rising star on the race circuit who dreams of winning the big one--the Indianapolis 500. But to get there he runs the risk of losing his wife Elora to his rival, Luther ...
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Frank Capua is a rising star on the race circuit who dreams of winning the big one--the Indianapolis 500. But to get there he runs the risk of losing his wife Elora to his rival, Luther Erding, and strains the relationship with his stepson.Written by
J A Ollinger <email@example.com>
This is an odd duck of a film. It has that sixties-film desire to heap oh-so-serious, stagy, acting scenes onto a film ostensibly about racing, action, and excitement. So, for buffs of sixties car racing, there's plenty of stuff to see (and even wax nostalgic about), yet to get to it you have to plow through several draggy domestic drama scenes all about "revealing character" and "emotional symbolism" and all that other creative writing 101 blather that is really meant for an entirely different audience. Would you like to have a 'Jurassic Park' with Dr. Grant and Ellie spending half the film discussing child-care issues and emotional abandonment? You're there for the dinosaur story. And you're watching 'Winning' for the racing material. Granted that there is nothing wrong with presenting the "lonely life on the road" of a car racer, but we understand the issues of Newman and Woodward (and Thomas AND Wagner) very quickly, therefore the almost ceaseless hammering-on about it all becomes depressing. Too bad, because this had the makings of the best film on the subject. There are not exactly a lot of race car films to begin with, outside of a few from the thirties, then later 'The Racers' with Kirk Douglas; 'The Big Wheel' with Mickey Rooney; 'Grand Prix'; and after 'Winning', McQueen's 'Le Mans' in 1971. And of course, 'Days of Thunder' (blah).
Interesting that Newman likes spoken interaction between actors in his films, as in "Harper" where he plays a private eye, whereas McQueen as a cop says little throughout 'Bullitt'; and while 'Winning' is an actor's gabfest, McQueen and his cast are virtual blanks in 'Le Mans.' If you could cinematically combine footage from 'Winning' and 'Le Mans' (maybe even with 'Grand Prix') you could have the best racing film ever. Meanwhile, 'Winning' is debatably the best at this point. And you can't knock the fact that Newman in real life has done plenty of racing and IS married to Woodward. Certainly that adds to the realism. Incidentally, the title credits read: "Introducing Richard Thomas." This was ol' John-Boy's first film role. He's good, too. Oh, and quite the reverse, the music by Dave Grusin is deplorable: it's like some canned soundtrack from a TV action show. Thankfully there's no embarrassing title tune warbled by B.J. Thomas or some other late-sixties cliché singer or rock group.
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