The horse lover who robbed Dixon

Chicago Sun-Times - - MOVIES - BY RICHARD ROEPER Movie Colum­nist Email: rroeper@sun­times.com Twit­ter: @ richardroeper

If there’s an HBO movie or a Net­flix film putting a dra­matic fic­tional spin on the story of Rita Crundwell, the Dixon, Illi­nois, comp­trol­ler who per­pe­trated the largest mu­nic­i­pal fraud in Amer­i­can his­tory, I could see Michelle Pfeif­fer or Meryl Streep knock­ing it out of the park.

In the mean­time, we have the doc­u­men­tary “All the Queen’s Horses,” and ku­dos to direc­tor Kelly Rich­mond Pope for ap­ply­ing just the right mix of “What the Heck?” whimsy and re­spect­ful, se­ri­ous re­port­ing to this in­cred­i­ble tale.

Sit­ting about 100 miles due west of Chicago, Dixon ( pop­u­la­tion about 16,000) was a quiet town best known as the boy­hood home of Ron­ald Rea­gan — un­til 2011, when a Dixon gov­ern­ment em­ployee no­ticed a years- long pat­tern of in­ex­pli­ca­ble bank­ing pa­per­work, all of it lead­ing to one Rita Crundwell, the town comp­trol­ler who by that time had es­tab­lished an in­ter­na­tional rep­u­ta­tion as one of the world’s lead­ing breed­ers and train­ers of quar­ter horses.

Direc­tor Pope uses de­lib­er­ately sim­ple graph­ics to con­nect the dots and ex­plain how such a mas­sive con could oc­cur in a tightly knit, small com­mu­nity. She also ( and quite ad­mirably) re­sists the temp­ta­tion to ro­man­ti­cize the ad­mit­tedly fas­ci­nat­ing Crundwell, point­ing out how Crundwell laid off hon­est, hard­work­ing em­ploy­ees and cut the town’s es­sen­tial ser­vices bud­get while fund­ing her own ex­trav­a­gant life­style.

Rita Crundwell poses with a horse in 2011, the same year a col­league dis­cov­ered her con. AMER­I­CAN QUAR­TER HORSE JOUR­NAL

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