"Fresh Horses, on paper, would have seemed to have been a perfect hit script. You had Molly Ringwald, with her porcelain skin and delicately curly red-blonde hair. You had Andrew McCarthy with his boyish charm but also the male strength beginning to come through. You had a romantic triangle. You had the "class divide". The Brat Pack was loved by millions. How could this fail?
The problem really does seem to come down to the actors themselves. There's very little "energy" at all to this story which is supposedly about passion overcoming logic. Molly is a 16 yr old girl in rural Kentucky. When her stepfather begins fondling her, and her mother does little to help, Molly tries for the only escape she can find - marrying the older bad-man-in-town, Viggo Mortensen. She claims she never slept with Viggo - only used him for escape. Then Viggo's father began fondling her, and now she wants out of this house as well.
To get momentary relief from her homelife, she hangs out at a friend's home, which is a 24 hour party. Here she runs into Andrew. Andrew is a very serious student who has just gotten engaged to his high-class, wealthy girlfriend. The girlfriend rambles on and on about china patterns, having children and living the perfect life. Andrew goes with the flow until he sees Molly - and is instantly in lust. Molly leads him to believe she's 20, single, and interested in him. It takes maybe 3 days before he's sleeping with her. To his credit, he does tell his fiancee promptly, and breaks off the engagement.
You'd think everything was wonderful now, right? However, Andrew learns from friends about Molly's lies. He decides to keep seeing her anyway. However, he doesn't want to introduce her to his family, and has no intention of marrying her. He says he loves her - but his feelings seem to be more related to sex. At one point he even gives her a wad of cash to buy her off.
There's a telling scene near the end when Andrew thinks Molly has been publicly stripped by her husband. Andrew storms off to their house to have a talk with Viggo. Andrew is deliberately rude - laughing at Viggo's artwork and putting him down. But it's Viggo who is the calm one here. When Molly shows up, Viggo points out that Molly's been doing all this lying and scheming so that Andrew would be a Knight in Shining Armor and ride off with her. He asks Andrew - if you're saying I'm not good enough for her - it seems that you think you're too good for her, right? Andrew finds himself agreeing - that he won't take on Molly himself. He wants to get Molly away from Viggo, but then is going to abandon her to her own means. How could he figure that Molly would be better off with nobody at all, vs with Viggo?
Fast forward to a year later, and Molly has in fact found herself a "wealthy college boy" to take care of her and is taking classes again. She's happy, and Andrew is sad. I suppose you have to give them credit for a not-typical Hollywood ending to the story.
The landscapes are often gorgeous, and the various details of high class, low class, city, country are all played nicely against each other. So the problem really comes down to the main actors. Molly and Andrew maybe have gotten too used to playing ensemble roles where each person just has to be a stereotype without a lot of depth. You really get a sense of shallowness when you're watching this movie. Andrew has an entire life including a long-term romance, that he's set in. In just 3 days he's thrown it all away for Molly - but you never get any real sense that he cares about her. Molly was supposedly taking some quite desperate steps to find safety in her life - including seducing and lying to Andrew in order to convince him to rescue her - but she never seems to care much either.
Intriguingly, only 2 people really seem to have depth in this movie. One is Ben Stiller, Andrew's best friend. It's ironic because Ben's character IS shallow and cares more for himself than for those around him. Even so, Ben really seems authentic as someone who isn't used to having to worry about others - but who really does try his best, many times, to get Andrew to wake up to reality. The other is Viggo Mortensen. You only glimpse Viggo once until the end of the movie - he's just referred to as a "rough guy" who has done many bad things. When you actually encounter Viggo (after Andrew has in essence broken into his house to confront him) you're prepared for the worst. However, Viggo is very patient, very well spoken, and quite intelligent in his commentary. He doesn't thrash Andrew for sleeping with his wife. Instead, he lays out the situation and makes both Andrew and Molly face their failings. Molly deliberately lied and used Andrew as a tool of getting a better life. Andrew, for his part, knew he'd never actually rescue Molly but led her on repeatedly to have time with her.
Some have said this is the worst movie ever. Many sections of it can be very painful to watch. However, I do find glimmers of meaning - especially in the ending discussion with Viggo. Even there, though, you would think this would be a moment of great soul searching for Andrew and Molly. Instead, both seem to think, "Yeah, I guess that's true. Oh well, see ya." I don't mind gloomy movies at all - in fact I really appreciate them sometimes. However, if a movie has no depth of character or quality acting, it just makes the whole experience fall flat."
A Very Good (But Sad) Movie
J. McHenry | Detroit, MI | 10/30/2005
(5 out of 5 stars)
"All of these bad reviews confuse a movie they didn't like with a badly made movie. This is a very well made movie, with perfectly competent performances. The tone is quite serious, and the ending won't cheer anyone up. But then there are many people who loved Titanic, which I found utterly depressing. More to the point, though, who cares about the problems of these rich kids? Not me. The REAL reason to watch this is to see Molly Ringwald at her most beautiful. And if you enjoy this film, check out Less Than Zero, another gloomy but solid (& underrated) '80s film. The WORST '80s film is Bright Lights, Big City - don't say I didn't warn you!"
An unabashedly favorable review!
Brett | Texas | 12/13/2001
(3 out of 5 stars)
"I have been a fan of this movie for many years since its release. When I decided to purchase, I was surprised to see such negative reviews. Granted its not necessarily Oscar quality material. But, the cinematic backdrop is interesting and goes a long way to lend great atmosphere to the story. I think McCarthy and Ringwald do a good job with the acting. It's not hard to understand why Larkin (McCarthy) falls for Jewel (Ringwald ) right off the bat, Ringwald imbues her character with a palpable steamy sensuality in their first meeting. Mortensen (Green) is convincing as the low life "husband" of Jewel. It's also interesting to see an early role for Ben Stiller, especially if you are a fan. I can't agree that ... is wasted on this movie. In fact, I wish it were available in DVD format. The story ending has a heart-rending quality that has stayed with me through the years since I first viewed this movie."
FRESH HORSES is a Stale Turkey.
johnny_belinda | Monarch Beach, CA USA | 03/26/2000
(2 out of 5 stars)
"This is, perhaps, the most unintelligible picture I have everseen. The story is dull and uneventful, but that doesn't make it anyeasier to understand. Andrew McCarthy is Matt, a wealthy college student betrothed to a pristine debutante. When his friend (Ben Stiller) invites him out visit a wild new friend (Patti D'Arbanville), he meets a mysterious girl named Jewel (Molly Ringwald). From the outset, Matt is smitten and Jewel is unimpressed. Days later, Matt drops his fiancee and confesses his love to Jewel. While her interest is waning, Jewel is overwhelmed by his affections and the two begin a passionate affair. Then, Matt discovers Jewel is married, underage and in an abusive relationship. He is in over his head and he briefly begins to alienate himself from Jewel. They reunite quickly, but, shortly thereafter, Matt discovers a devasting revelation: Jewel may have been raped by a handful of men while her husband looked on. Now, there seems to be little hope for either of them to find happiness.Contrary to popular belief, Molly Ringwald is first-rate in an unexpected role change. In one particularly magnetic scene, Ringwald as Jewel reveals she began smoking as an infant, when her twisted parents held cigarettes to her mouth to watch her inhale. It is Jewel's riveting vulnerability that makes the scene unforgettable. Andrew McCarthy, however, is entirely unlikable as the spoiled Matt, and we never understand his character's obsession for Jewel, nor do we understand his compulsive need to correct her improper speech. The reason this film misfires in so many ways is that the script is wildly incoherent. Because the relationship isn't motivated by sexual desire, there is no potential for suspense a la "The Postman Always Rings Twice." We never truly understand WHY any character does what he or she does, and the film drifts lifelessly, leaving little hope for viewer satisfaction.While Molly Ringwald may have faded from the limelight, it was commendable for her to seek out different roles than she portrayed in her very successful alliance with John Hughes. Two of those roles were in excellent pictures: "The Pick-up Artist" and "King Lear." The rest were just awful. "For Keeps?," "Betsy's Wedding," "Strike It Rich?" For these flops she turned down parts in "Pretty Woman" and "Ghost!" FRESH HORSES is relatively inoffensive, but, at best, it is only occasionally satisfying for die-hard Ringwald fans like myself."
JSR700 | Clark, NV | 11/14/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is not that bad. I think this movie is highly underrated. People were probably expecting another "Pretty in Pink." But then this is not a John Hughes film. The music score was great. The characters lacked a little background and the editing can probably be improved a bit. The plot can also use a little twist. But overall, I liked the movie, its simplicity. In the end it brings a heartwarming feeling of knowing someone you cared for and wanted to help has moved on..."