These horses are f-f-f-f-fresh. Funky Fresh. Never before has such a thin concept gone so far for BMT. The mere name of this film, Fresh Horses, is so weird that it stopped Patrick in his tracks and he insisted we watch. What made these horses so fresh, we wondered. And it was a tricky spot. Films from the 80’s not only significantly predate any of your favorite online databases (obviously), but the box office was like a wee little babe at that point. The data is sparse. So it’s hard enough knowing if a film is actually bad… but you also have to wonder whether it was even a wide release film. Was Fresh Horses deserving of being BMT? Who cares! These horses are fresh. Funky Fresh Horses. Welcome to FFH. We’ve rebranded.
To recap, Matt is a Richy Rich… or at least comparatively rich for Cincinnati. After getting engaged he becomes increasingly unhappy with his course in life. He decides to head down to Kentucky where there are no rulez and he meets Jewel. He is instantly obsessed. She seems so naive and pure (like a horse… a totally fresh horse) and he runs away from everything to be with her. Turns out he probably needs therapy, but whatevs! YOLO! Every time things seem like they are so pure and beautiful in their love there is some new speedbump in their way. Jewel is married?! Gah! Jewel might be 16 years old?! Gosh darn it. Jewel is mildly bored by Matt’s potential career choice of board game design?! Worst one yet! Eventually things spiral so far out of control that Matt decides he has to call things quits and he goes off for some fun with girls from his University. Discovered by Jewel and realizing he was just trying to hurt her, he gives the relationship one more go. But when he gets into a scuffle with Jewel’s husband they decide to officially break up. A year later they meet in Cincinnati and Matt finds that Jewel has left her husband, gone back to school and has a new beau. He’s happy for her and just as he turns away he mentions how he never did give her his real name. She asks what it is and he says, “Milton.. Milton Bradley.” THE END.
Alright, fine, that last part didn’t happen. But that would have been fresh. Funky fresh. This is a bit of a nothing film other than portraying some real wild stuff as if it’s just a normal, everyday coming-of-age tale. Weird stuff happens in real life, so perhaps this is par for the course for some, but you can’t help but be knocked back a couple steps when the characters keep upping the ante on Jewel and Matt is like “don’t care, I love her.” You probably don’t, bro. The only things that seem worth much in the film is an early turn by Ben Stiller, a stellar showing by Cincinnati, and an ending that feels a little like the second After film. How would a relationship like this end? Probably the college kid would reorient and get back on the path to his normal career and maybe the girl would end up turning her life around without him. They would not end up together… and they don’t. This isn’t a good film, it’s a weird film. Which is better than bad.
Hot Take Clam Bake! You know what, I think these kids are going to make it. The film tells you they are well on their way to leading fulfilling lives away from each other. I say no! I say they see each other that one day and Matt is like “Wow, Jewel is looking great and is now kind of a brainiac like me.” and Jewel is like “Wow, Matt is looking great and he’s not some lost weirdo anymore.” Soon he hears through the grapevine that she’s single again. “You wanna catch a flick?” he asks. Tim Burton’s Batman sounds like it’s good. She agrees. They end up back at his place where, what’s this? She is suddenly interested in his burgeoning board game career? And hold up, did she just make a suggestion on how to change the rules… and the game is now better? Oh, they’re passing Go and they’re collecting $200 (if you know what I mean). Hot Take Temperature: US Grade Police Pepper Spray.
‘Ello everyone! It’s f-f-f-f-f-f-f-funky fresh horses. Brother … those horses? They’re super fresh. Let’s go!
- Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh what’s this now? Uuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuh what did we just watch now? And not in a “this film is wild kind of way”, but in a “I forgot people used to make films like this, that they would be released widely to theaters, that they would be panned by critics, and that they would play constantly on television … and then people would just forget this film existed?”
- To point number one: I’ve been collecting data from the New York Times on television listings. Fresh Horses? All over the place in 1990. Played on television 15 times. That is as much as 55 other films from 1988 (already alarming …). Was Fresh Horses a top 60ish film in 1988? Not by gross, but by theatrical count it was for sure (as a matter of fact by that metric it was 57th versus 56th by television plays …). Is the number of times it played on television a proxy for theatrical counts? If so, could something like this be used for years where there isn’t good data on theatrical count? Interesting questions all around.
- Oh, am I avoiding talking about this film? I couldn’t tell.
- This film is really weird. I would say it is very well acted. I would say that the story is told well. The direction is at least adequate, although perhaps hardly spectacular (but it is adapting a stage play, so a difficult task). The writing seems solid. The issue just seems to be that they took a stage play with challenging ideas and … that’s it. There is something lost in translation. The weighty bit of the script: him falling in love with a girl from the wrong side of the tracks. That girl turning out to be 16 years old. That girl coming from an abusive background. That girl being married. That girl also maybe being a liar, but then again the undercurrent of her constantly being trapped by horrible men in a terrible situation, and then maybe it’s those men who are lying both to themselves and Andrew McCarthy to protect themselves. That’s a challenge. It sounds like a play. I think Ringwald and McCarthy handle the material well, but ultimately the film feels like a nothing film.
- Is it because it feels like this pulls the punch at the end? Are there consequences at the end of this film? It feels like ultimately Jewel gets out of her situation (or is she perhaps duping another “high class” guy after using McCarthy to get her annulment? These are the questions), McCarthy moves up north to become a chemical engineer, his friend lives happily ever after. So … what was the consequence? McCarthy got beat up once and broke up with his rich fiancee. He may have had a fight with his family. That’s about it. I was fully expecting to watch McCarthy ruin his life. Either by following Jewel down a dark and dangerous path, or literally getting killed attempting to “save her”. I’m glad he didn’t, but at the same time is the film “less than” because it leaves things so unchanged? It feels like a stage play basically. That feels like a problem.
- I’m surprised I have so much to say, but it was a weird film.
- Shout out to Product Placement (What?) for White Castle, a solid addition to our BMT fast food product placement pantheon. Definite Setting as a Character (Where?) for the Cincinnati / Kentucky border which underscores the entire central dynamic of the film. I’ll leave it with that. This is closest to Bad easily I think, just because it is boring and I would never ever ever watch it again.
Read all about the sequel Fresher Horses in the Quiz. Cheerios,