Near the turn of the twentieth century, young Harry Vardon becomes a champion golfer but learns that his amazing skill is no match for the class boundaries that exclude him from "gentlemanly" English society. A dozen years later, a young American, Francis Ouimet, fights against the same prejudice, as well as his own father's disdain, for a chance to participate in the U.S. Open against his idol -- Harry Vardon. The struggles of both men for acceptance provides the background for an amazing contest of skills.Written by
Jim Beaver <email@example.com>
Actor turned director Bill Paxton follows up his promising debut, the Gothic-horror "Frailty", with this family friendly sports drama about the 1913 U.S. Open where a young American caddy rises from his humble background to play against his Bristish idol in what was dubbed as "The Greatest Game Ever Played." I'm no fan of golf, and these scrappy underdog sports flicks are a dime a dozen (most recently done to grand effect with "Miracle" and "Cinderella Man"), but some how this film was enthralling all the same.
The film starts with some creative opening credits (imagine a Disneyfied version of the animated opening credits of HBO's "Carnivale" and "Rome"), but lumbers along slowly for its first by-the-numbers hour. Once the action moves to the U.S. Open things pick up very well. Paxton does a nice job and shows a knack for effective directorial flourishes (I loved the rain-soaked montage of the action on day two of the open) that propel the plot further or add some unexpected psychological depth to the proceedings. There's some compelling character development when the British Harry Vardon is haunted by images of the aristocrats in black suits and top hats who destroyed his family cottage as a child to make way for a golf course. He also does a good job of visually depicting what goes on in the players' heads under pressure. Golf, a painfully boring sport, is brought vividly alive here. Credit should also be given the set designers and costume department for creating an engaging period-piece atmosphere of London and Boston at the beginning of the twentieth century.
You know how this is going to end not only because it's based on a true story but also because films in this genre follow the same template over and over, but Paxton puts on a better than average show and perhaps indicates more talent behind the camera than he ever had in front of it. Despite the formulaic nature, this is a nice and easy film to root for that deserves to find an audience.
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