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“THE RIDER” My rating: B 

104 minutes | MPAA rating: R

With “The Rider” it’s nearly impossible to say where real life ends and art begins.

In Chloe Zhao’s film Brady Jandreau portrays Brady Blackburn, a South Dakota rancher’s son who has suffered a near-fatal head injury during a rodeo competition.

Basically Jandreau is portraying himself…he suffered precisely that sort of head injury when thrown by a bucking bronc. His real-life father and sister (Tim and Lily Jandreau) portray his cinematic father and sibling.

And his real-life best friend, quadriplegic former bull rider Lane Scott, plays himself.

You can’t say this film lacks authenticity.

We first meet Brady just hours out of the hospital, where he spent a week in a coma before awakening and checking himself out against all medical advice. He’s got a new plate in his head and a set of stitches worthy of Frankenstein’s monster.  Frustrated, he uses a pair of pliers to pull the medical staples out of his skull.

The scar will eventually heal.  More problematic is what Brady will do with himself.  He’s been told that just riding a  horse — much less  climbing onto 600 pounds of angry bronco — could prove fatal.

His widowed, hard-drinking, barmaid-chasing father tells him to tough it out: “Play the cards you are dealt. Let it go.”

But Brady — who looks a bit like Josh Hartnett’s country cousin — feels utterly incomplete without his legs wrapped around a horse. Essentially “The Rider” is about whether for the sake of staying alive he can give up an essential part of himself.

(more…)

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