Entertainment » Movies

Lean On Pete

by Frank J. Avella
EDGE Media Network Contributor
Friday Mar 30, 2018
'Lean On Pete'
'Lean On Pete'  

To put it plainly, "Lean on Pete"" is writer-director Andrew Haigh's best work. Full disclosure: I found "Weekend," "45 Years," and the HBO series "Looking" to be quite lacking. All three were worthwhile endeavors but painfully plot-deprived, with limited character development; none had much to say. "Lean on Pete" proves the opposite, with a deliberately and perfectly paced first half, where we spend quality time with our protagonist, and a second hour that brims with the life-altering narrative experiences the boy must face based on the (often-misguided) decisions he makes. In addition, the movie makes a powerful statement about class in our country that is far more potent than the overrated "Florida Project."

Based on the novel by Willy Vlautin, "Lean on Pete" focuses on 15-year-old loner Charley (Charlie Plummer) living with his fuckup father, Ray (an excellent Travis Fimmel) in Portland, Oregon. Times are beyond tough, but resourceful Charley stumbles onto a job looking after an aging Quarter Horse named Lean on Pete, owned by a no-nonsense, money-desperate racer named Del (Steve Buscemi, nailing irascible). Ray continues to make bad decisions, and one doozie leads to a horrific tragedy, leaving Charley on his own to travel the race circuit with Del and his jockey (a surprisingly charming Chloe Sevigny). When he realizes that Del is about to sell poor Pete off for slaughter, Charlie runs off with the horse.

All of the above is really just prologue to an astonishing survival odyssey, which takes our teen through the lower class underbelly of these United States.

I felt like a parent wanting to come in and save him.

The film never shifts its focus away from Charley, so when the boy leaves people and places so does the viewer, a refreshing choice that makes us root for Charley even when he does some questionable things.

And as gritty and honest as the film can be, Haigh's approach remains glass-half-full, always wanting to find the decency in people. Each (flawed) character is given weight, so even the small role of a young girl living with her abusive grandfather makes an indelible impression.

The film's anchor and hub is Charley and young Charlie Plummer (no relation to Christopher, although he did portray the younger Getty in "All the Money in the World" last year) is quite a find, giving us just enough access to the boy's inner struggles, frustrations and demons that we can watch him evolve - though not always in the most admirable way. The realities of Charley's world have a way of forcing a boy to grow up fast and make some harsh decisions. As he grows more hungry and determined to seek out a long-lost, sympathetic aunt, he becomes more feral and selfish. But Plummer never overplays the drama; he keeps it real. His Charley never wallows in his own misery, he keeps moving forward.

One of the things I appreciated most about "Lean on Pete" is that Haigh never forces a sexuality on Charley. There was no obligatory girlfriend plot or hookup moment. Nor is there any scene of sexual confusion. Charley is a bit too busy trying to survive.

Lean on Pete

In the anime film ``Digimon Adventure tri.: Coexistence,'' the arrival of the rampaging Meicoomon starts the countdown to the collapse of the real world; features special interviews with the cast and crew.


Runtime :: 122 mins
Release Date :: Apr 06, 2018
Language :: Silent
Country :: United Kingdom

Frank J. Avella is a film and theatre journalist and is thrilled to be writing for EDGE. He is also a proud Dramatists Guild member and a recipient of a 2018 Bogliasco Foundation Fellowship. He was awarded a 2015 Fellowship Award from the NJ State Council on the Arts, the 2016 Helene Wurlitzer Residency Grant and the Chesley/Bumbalo Foundation Playwright Award for his play Consent, which was also a 2012 semifinalist for the O'Neill. His play, Vatican Falls, took part in the 2017 Planet Connections Festivity and Frank was nominated for Outstanding Playwriting. Lured was a semifinalist for the 2018 O'Neill and received a 2018 Arch and Bruce Brown Foundation Grant. Lured will premiere in 2018 in NYC and 2019 in Rome, Italy. LuredThePlay.com


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