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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Alex Reviews "The Phantom of the Open"

Maurice (pronounced as Morris) Flitcroft holds a golf record of infamy in the oldest tournament in existence, The Open Championship (or The British Open to most). If he were just another golfer, it could have been seen as just a bad round, but Maurice is a bit of a different golfer since he was basically a “chain-smoking crane-operator” who had never played a round of golf, and it is that story that is at the center of “The Phantom of the Open”.

Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies) stars as the Maurice, chronicling his days in the shipyard of Barrow-in-Furness to his discovery of golf, which led to his controversial status as a beloved cult hero amongst those that follow the sport. Rylance gives the movie that heart-and-dreamer mentality that launches the character to lovable yet absurd heights. With the intent of giving the audience an “every man” to root for, the Rylance flexes his talents with minimal effort and anchors the picture through even the weirdest choices that pop up periodically.

In a smaller but equally important role, Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water) portrays his wife, Jean Flitcroft, who is also the straight character to him. Her portrayal of the ever stoic yet supportive spouse, Hawkins commands every scene she is in despite playing a demure character. It takes a true talent to balance those perspectives, but Hawkins crushes it and nails that point home in a speech to their sons in the third act.

Unfortunately, the acting does not save this film from some questionable decisions that takes “The Phantom of the Open” from being a great movie down to being enjoyable, but it is not bad by any stretch. Craig Roberts’ homage to the period with select wipes and credits feels perfectly suited to the material, but there are scenes where the fantastical imagery (that would fit better in films like The Big Lebowski) feels both out of place and stops the narrative down. Outside of that, Roberts does the kind of work that gives him a good chance of becoming a premier director.

For now, the only real detraction to “The Phantom of the Open” are the choices made in shooting where it felt like there were multiple ideas on what it would or could be with nothing committed to in the final product (or maybe that frantic style was meant to reflect Flitcroft’s game itself) with aspects of the story condensed or combined in a strange way which differs from Scott Murray’s source material. Personally, I’d have rather they stuck with Rylance and Hawkins unrelenting optimism opposed to the Royal and Ancient traditionalists that are wildly underrepresented by the hyper-talented Rhys Ifans (Anonymous) that makes the film lose steam late with odd family tangents and a “lowest point” that makes no sense based on its opening. Give me this story with all the same components that is purely a “David vs. Goliath” with Rylance and Hawkins representing the working class against the golf elitist and we could be talking about an award contender, but in its current state, it is an enjoyable watch for anyone wanting a story of perseverance.

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