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Film / Let It Ride

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"The man just said that the only way the horse could lose was if lightning strikes! What do you like? You like the odds on lightning?"
Jay Trotter

Let It Ride is a 1989 American comedy film directed by Joe Pytka (Space Jam) and starring Richard Dreyfuss, David Johanson, Teri Garr, Jennifer Tilly, Allen Garfield, Michelle Phillips, and Robbie Coltrane. Screenwriter Nancy Dowd (using the pseudonym "Ernest Morton") adapted it from the novel Good Vibes by Jay Cronley (who also wrote Quick Change, with which this film shares many of its quirks).

Jay Trotter (Dreyfuss) is a Miami cab driver who has just been looking for one good day. He sees his chance when Looney (Johanson), a fellow cab driver, records a horse owner telling his friend to bet on Charity in the first race, because it's a sure thing. Trotter sees this as a sign, and despite telling his wife Pam (Garr) he's going to quit gambling, decides to bet $50 on Charity, who's a longshot. Charity ends up winning, and though Trotter considers going home at various points, he thinks this may just be the day he's due.

This film contains examples of:

  • Adaptation Title Change: Let It Ride is based on the novel Good Vibes.
  • All or Nothing: What do you think "let it ride" means? Trotter bets every race this way, betting everything he has, and usually on the longshot.
    Looney: (after Trotter tells him and Vicki contrary to what he told everybody else, he bet it all on the longshot Hot To Trot) I knew it! (announcing exuberantly to the crowd) HE PISSED IT ALL AWAY!
  • Answer Cut: During the finale, Vicki tells God she'll never be a Gold Digger again, and she'll date penniless losers. The next shot, she and Looney exchange romantic glances.
  • Arc Words: "I'm having a very good day." The last time is deliberately an Understatement.
  • Aside Comment: When Vicki propositions him near the end of the movie, Trotter looks to the camera and says, "Am I having a good day or what?", before turning back to Vicki and turning her down.
  • Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other: Trotter and Pam reconcile at the end.
  • The Big Guy: Simpson (played by Tony Longo). Deconstructed when Trotter mentally calculates how much Simpson makes for accepting $5 to open up spaces in the crowd, and whistles, "Whew, that's a lot of money." Longo replies, "Yeah, just for being big!"
  • Blackmail: Averted; when Trotter approaches the horse owner and his friend at the stall, they assume he's going to do this, but Trotter assures them he just wants to thank them for making him money, and even gives them the tape Looney made of them.
    • Looney attempts to play this straight a little later, only for Trotter to give him a rude awakening:
      Looney: I got an idea on how we can make a lot of money. Listen to me. We take the tape, right? We run down to the stables, we confront the trainer. With what he made on that last race, you think he's gonna mind slipping us, what, five grand? I mean, I don't like blackmail as much as the next person, but–
      Trotter: I already gave him the tape.
      Looney: (slumps down to his knees) AAAAHHHHH!
      Trotter: I just saved you from a lengthy jail sentence.
      Looney: I'LL GET YOU FOR THIS!
  • Blowing a Raspberry: Jay does this to everyone after he's kicked out of the Jockey Club.
  • Book Ends: The first race and the last race Trotter bets on both end in a photo finish. Also, in both cases, the horse Trotter bet on ends up winning.
  • Born Unlucky: Looney, who is well aware of it. When Trotter offers to pay his debt, Looney has the collector look up the last time he won anything: some Packers game years ago. Even Trotter is shocked.
  • The Cameo: Mary Woronov plays a waitress at the track who tells Trotter, "You could be walking around lucky and not even know it." (which is a Meaningful Echo of the fortune Trotter read from his fortune cookie at the beginning of the movie).
  • Classic Anti Hero: Trotter. As the Tag Line states, "He drinks. He smokes. He gambles. He curses. He thinks about committing adultery. You'll love him."
  • Cloud Cuckoolander: Everyone. Even the police officer, Reardon, starts bragging he has such good peripheral vision, he can see his own ears, and starts rattling off the minutae he can see happening all around him.
  • Cosmic Plaything: Trotter is convinced God hates him, and even tells Pam so; given an Ironic Echo later when Trotter win a bet on a race, and yells out, "God likes me! He really, really likes me!"
    • When the final race is in doubt, Trotter Rages Against The Heavens "I thought we had a deal!" Simpson looks up to see who the heck Trotter is talking to.
  • Covert Pervert: Looney gets his rocks off surreptitiously recording horny couples in the back seat of his cab (which is how he gets the conversation between the two men fixing the race.)
  • Deadpan Snarker: Trotter.
    Bathroom attendant: (after Trotter tips him $1) Ooh, I got a kid in college. This will pay four minutes of his tuition.
    Trotter: Buy yourself a new joke.
    • Also, the Ticket Seller.
  • Death Glare: Trotter and the ticket seller give each other these the first couple of times Trotter tries to bet and the teller tries to talk him out of it.
  • The Ditz: Vicki. or so it seems at first. Subverted in that she's smarter than she looks.
  • Drowning My Sorrows: Everyone, but Pam hits the bottle hardest, informing Trotter she's decided she has a new future as a bag lady.
  • Establishing Character Moment: A variation — the fortune cookie argument by the entire restaurant communicates what kind of stream of consciousness film Let It Ride is.
  • Ethical Slut: Vicki. Seemingly a Gold Digger, she's more into personality.
  • "Eureka!" Moment: Trotter has a few, but the most meaningful is him realizing and telling his wife that it was never his gambling that bothered her — it was his losing.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The ticket seller is only known as the ticket seller.
  • Fire-Forged Friends: Reardon and especially The Ticket Seller are initially mild antagonists to Trotter, but they bond with him. The first time Trotter bets, the Seller snarkily reminds him the five dollar bets are over there. For the second-to-last bet, the Seller shares a smoke with Trotter, telling him, "You're the greatest I've ever seen. I'll tell my grandchildren about you. I hope you win."
  • Foreshadowing: Every resolution Trotter and Pam make to each other — for example, Trotter will quit gambling, while Pam will never make a scene in public again — they end up doing in the film.
  • Funny Background Event: The film is full of them, such as the Manly Tears event below.
  • Gay Moment: Cheeseburger exuberantly gives Trotter a huge kiss on the mouth when they win on a longshot. Trotter's not amused, but Cheeseburger still gives him one of his many, many gold necklaces as a souvenir.
  • Happily Married: Pam and Trotter really do love each other, and the by the end of the film they realize that the things they dislike about each other are a key part of why they love each other. When Vicki offers him sex, he appreciates the offer but turns her down.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: It's downplayed, but there's only one reason Vicki is at the track. However, she's also kind, sweet, and finds Trotter's down-to-earth personality charming, and suggests sex with him, but gracefully accepts his turning her down because he's married.
  • Hope Spot: Trotter escapes from the police at the track (see Miranda Rights below) in order to bet on Lord Byron, and he's running towards the ticket window just in time to place his bet...and that's when Looney executes a perfectly-timed leap in front of him, tripping Trotter up, making him slide on the floor towards the ticket window. By the time Trotter gets up, the race has started and the ticket seller has closed the window.
  • I Knew It!: Trotter's mantra after the final race ends in a photo finish. invoked
    Simpson: What did he know?
    Looney: (clearly not knowing himself) He. Knew. It.
  • I Need a Freaking Drink: After leaving the Jockey Club after arguing with Trotter, Pam goes straight home to get drunk, and announces to Trotter she's going to drink every day from now on.
    Pam: I have decided I'm going to be a bag lady!
  • Irony: Every loser starts predicting Trotter's final horse will win, such as Vibes calling out the horse's number. This after Trotter had decided to vote against all of the racetrack patrons' predictions, thinking they're all losers. The irony is doubled when Trotter's horse wins in the film.
  • It's the Journey That Counts: The reason Trotter keeps letting it ride. He even notes that even if he loses the final bet, he met a lot of friends (and got his wife an expensive necklace). In the book, Trotter loses the final race, but he doesn't care, enforcing the trope.)
  • Karmic Jackpot: The Central Theme of the film. Much of Trotter's good luck is strongly hinted as his being a Nice Guy (see Blackmail above.)
  • Lady in Red: Vicki, complete with cleavage.
  • Laser-Guided Karma: A positive example, as all of Trotter's good deeds results in him winning more money. For example, for not blackmailing the two fixers, they give him a tip on another longshot.
  • Last-Name Basis: Most people call Trotter by his last name; even Pam does when she's upset with him.
  • Let Me Get This Straight...: "Whatever I do, don't bet on this horse." Since Looney is the one who tells him this, Trotter, of course, bets on that horse. Subverted, in that Looney bets on it anyway.
  • Lethal Chef: Apparently, the cook at the diner at the track: Trotter takes one bite of his hamburger, makes a face, spits it out, and drops the rest of it on the floor.
    Man at counter: You want that?
    Trotter: (still in agony) Knock yourself out, pal!
  • Living Legend: Trotter becomes one, punctuated by the second-to-last bet when the sound of $50 win tickets rattles off for a minute, drawing a large crowd.
  • Malaproper: Vicki; after Trotter turns her down, she says, "What is it they say; nothing ventured, nothing ventured."
  • Manly Tears: In the counting room of the track, a sheik is sobbing. One can guess why.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: We never find out how other people are able to read Trotter's thoughts, nor why Trotter is so lucky, from little matters (when he goes to visit Pam near the end of the movie, he cuts a deck of cards and correctly guesses "five of clubs", convincing him to go back to the track) to bigger ones (the one horse Trotter isn't able to bet on - thanks to him getting arrested before he can lay down his bet - ends up getting into an accident during the race).
  • Meaningful Name: A guy named Trotter at a racetrack.
  • Miranda Rights: When the police mistake Trotter for a pickpocket named Morgan and arrest him, they start to read him these, and he insists, "I have the right to bet on Lord Byron!"
  • Ms. Fanservice: Jennifer Tilly at her fanserviciest, as a Lady in Red with cleavage. To avoid an R rating, the shot of the top of her dress popping off when she tackles Trotter in the Jockey Club was cut.
  • No Name Given: The Ticket Seller (played by Robbie Coltrane), who's billed as that in the credits.
  • Oh, Crap!:
    • The Ticket Seller has one when he sees Trotter returning for the final time with the $68,000 winnings from the previous race.
    • When Trotter finds out that Looney also bet on his horse in the final race.
  • On Second Thought: After going back to the bar, where all of his friends congratulate him, Trotter announces to them they should pool together all of their money (including his winnings), and everybody cheers on in agreement. Then he adds they should all bet it together...and there's a half-hearted cheer, followed by dead silence.
  • The Plot Thickens: After he's stopped from backing a losing horse, Trotter muses, "I didn't lose. Weirder and weirder."
  • Plot Threads: Every single minor character seems to have their own story going on. For example, Sid and Evangeline really do love each other, and the latter gets pissed off when the jockey of the horse they bet on fell off the horse, and in the end, Evangeline bets on her own (to show, so her horse still wins when Trotter's does).
  • Rage Against the Heavens: While at the bar, Trotter goes to the bathroom, looks up at the roof, and asks for one good day, because "I'm due." At the race, when Charity is running behind, Trotter looks skyward and yells out, "I thought we had a deal!"
  • Rules Lawyer: Trotter insists that betting on the first horse isn't betting because it's a fixed race, so technically there's no gambling going on.
  • Serious Business: Fortune cookies; according to Trotter, if you touch one, you have to open it, and no one else can. Pam thinks this is crazy, and this leads to the entire restaurant arguing about it.
  • Shout-Out: Trotter compares Cheeseburger to Sammy Davis Jr. at one point.
  • Sliding Scale of Plot Versus Characters: The film is fairly episodic, and focuses more on how characters react to the strange events moreso than the events. It's notable that the film doesn't end focusing on Trotter winning, but he and his wife accepting each other for who they are.
  • Slobs vs. Snobs: Lower-class cab driver Trotter inside the Jockey Club. Though a couple of women hit on him, most of the people become disgusted by his behavior, and he in turn gets disgusted by their hypocrisy.
  • Suddenly Shouting: When Looney asks Trotter if he really thinks Charity (the horse in the first race) can win:
    Trotter: Do I really think Charity can win?
    Looney: Yeah.
    Trotter: (chuckling) Well, I am walking around in yesterday's suit.
    Looney: Yeah.
    Trotter: And I do recall just recently telling my wife that I was going to stop gambling, and that I was going to move back home right after work. If I listen closely, I can hear my wife tell our attorney, "Go for his balls." And you're really asking me if I think Charity can win?
    Looney: Yeah.
    Trotter: (grabs Looney by the front of his shirt) YES! I THINK CHARITY CAN WIN! (walks off)
    Looney: Well, I think Charity's gonna lose by a nose!
  • Terrible Interviewees Montage: Done deliberately and justified; Trotter figures picks out a horse to bet on by conducting a survey of several people at the track, asking them which horse they'd bet on in the next race. Whatever horse they tell him, he crosses it off. The only horse no one mentions - Fleet Dreams - is the one he bets on.
  • Title Drop: Trotter says, "Let it ride" to the ticket seller every time he bets.
  • The Vamp: Mrs. Davis.
    Mrs. Davis: Some people likes to rub me for luck!
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Trotter and Looney. Trotter ridicules Looney for his bad luck, and for ignoring the implications of the tape, while Looney is bitter about Trotter betting on a sure thing and turning down his blackmail scheme (Looney even does his best to stop Trotter from betting again; see Hope Spot above). However, when another gambler threatens Looney because of how much he owes, Trotter pays off Looney's gambling debt, and Looney is grateful.
  • Walk This Way: Cheeseburger, who had made fun of Trotter for betting on Charity earlier, approaches Trotter to find out what horse he's going to bet on in the next race. Trotter, who's dancing along as he walks to the betting window, tells him, and as he continues, Cheeseburger, who assumes this must be a superstition Trotter has, dances along uncertainly.
  • Wardrobe Malfunction: In a Deleted Scene, Vicki's breasts pop out of her dress when she tackles Trotter in the Jockey Club, which is why in the film all of the elderly women Gasp! in shock at her. invoked