by Julia Pisani '21
TW: mentions of physical and sexual assault
This is not a review, but rather a summary and short analysis. Do not read if you aren't prepared for full spoilers!
The Art of Racing in the Rain is an emotionally touching story about a dog. Enzo is a wise golden retriever who loves to watch TV and observe the people around him. He wishes to reincarnate as a human after death and spends his short life observing what makes a good human. He and his owner, Denny, a professional race car driver, constantly lean on each other for support. Enzo is there as Denny is married to Eve and has a daughter, Zoë, watches his wife die of brain cancer, and navigates false allegations of sexual assault against him. Denny is present when Enzo is left alone without food for three days, destroys Zoë's stuffed animals, and is hit by a car and requires expensive surgery. For much of the book, Denny battles his late wife Eve's parents in a custody battle surrounding his daughter, and is given custody of Zoë in the end. He also accepts a job working for Ferrari in Italy, which is fitting as he is a skilled driver, and plans to move there with Zoë. In a saddening scene, Enzo dies of old age after a long and prosperous life. His wish to become human after death is granted: the epilogue, set about a decade later, sees a young golden-haired boy named Enzo approach Denny and Zoë in Italy.
Book vs. Movie
The movie was altered quite a bit to be more family-friendly than the book. It came off as more enjoyable than emotional. Enzo hardly talks about his ultimate goal of becoming a human, only addressing it when he lies on the floor dying. His death was much more peaceful than melancholy; I didn't cry at all watching the movie, but reading the book, I couldn't stop the stream of tears. We constantly hear Enzo's thoughts in the book, but in the movie, he is more focused on silently observing the events around him.
In the book, Denny goes to court after being falsely accused of forcing himself upon Eve's fifteen-year-old cousin, Annika. To my shock, the movie didn't feature Annika as a character at all. Instead, in a moment of rage, Denny accidentally lays a hand on Maxwell, who promptly falls dramatically and clutches at his arm. Trish and Maxwell later charge Denny with assault, although Maxwell was not injured to any degree following the encounter. Again, this was a much-needed change to shift the storyline to a more family-friendly movie. Including the scene where Annika forces herself on Denny would have been inappropriate for young viewers. Though unexpected, the producers pulled it off quite well.
The casting was perfect: Milo Ventimiglia as Denny and Amanda Seyfried as Eve. While reading the book, I pictured Denny as being played by Alex Roe (look him up! he looks like a Denny!), but Milo Ventimiglia did very well. Amanda Seyfried looked just like I would picture Eve to look. When Eve was sick, Amanda’s face makeup and bald cap looked very believable and not over the top, which was nice. I really appreciated that Ryan Keira Armstrong, the actress who played Zoë, was the same age as her character: Armstrong was nine years old at the time of the movie's release. Martin Donovan and Kathy Baker made the perfect villains as Maxwell and Trish, Eve's parents. Kevin Costner, the voice of Enzo, had the classic old man narrator voice that characterizes every other dog movie in Hollywood, which was only fitting.
I deeply appreciated the visual aspects of the film. As someone who has hardly been to Beech Ridge and isn't an avid watcher of NASCAR races, it was difficult for me to visualize Denny's races when reading the book. Seeing his racing scenes brought to life was super fascinating to me. I loved the way the scene where Enzo takes a ride in Denny’s car was set up. It was kept almost exactly the same as the book scene and was very exhilarating to watch through Enzo's eyes.
I’ve never heard of the director, Simon Curtis, or any of his other movies (when googling him, I discovered that Patrick Dempsey was one of the producers of the movie!!). That being said, he adapted the book to film very well, although I personally would have approached the movie differently, such as including more of Enzo's internal thoughts. The film wasn’t exactly like the book, and it differed from a lot of other dog movies in the sense that Enzo’s death was more peaceful than sad. It was definitely family friendly as well. I prefer the book to the movie. Nevertheless, I award the film The Art of Racing in the Rain 8.5 out of 10 stars.
The Well is a written and visual commentary that focuses on reviews of the arts at Thornton Academy and the greater community. With the help of Ink's publication staff, The Well exists to both inform the readers about our arts and literature events, but to also collect the ideas and opinions of the students it is meant to enlighten.