THE PHANTOM OF THE OPEN (2022)

June 16, 2022

Greetings again from the darkness. Scott Farnaby co-wrote the book with Scott Murray and then adapted that book into the screenplay directed here by Craig Roberts (ETERNAL BEAUTY, 2019). Mr. Farnaby also wrote the excellent screenplay for PADDINGTON 2 (2017), as well as for the upcoming Disney version of PINOCCHIO. Director Roberts is also known for his acting, taking the lead in the underrated SUBMARINE (2010).

We are informed that this is based on the true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a name you likely don’t recognize. Flitcroft (played here by Oscar winner Mark Rylance, BRIDGE OF SPIES) is known for posting the highest score in history at the 1976 British Open. He shot 121. It was the first round of golf he ever played. Now if you wonder how that could happen, the filmmakers are happy to explain. We meet Flitcroft as an unassuming crane operator at the shipyard in Barrow-in-Furness, a workplace he describes as “going in on your feet, and out in a box.” This is also where he meets and subsequently marries an unassuming secretary, and single mom, named Jean (played by the always great Sally Hawkins). The two marry and have twin sons to join Jean’s son, Michael.

There is really no need to dig in deep here as it’s a light-hearted, dry comedy based on an accidental celebrity who gained folk hero status over pursuing his dream … in a clueless and talentless manner. The big question remains: was Flitcroft a naïve man whose dream was inspired by watching a few holes of golf on TV, or was he a sly huckster who took a bit of enjoyment in sticking it to the system? Rylance gives the least subtle performance of his career as he dons a bucket hat and some protruding false teeth to create an exaggerated overbite that is as much of his character as the quirky facial expressions and down-to-earth philosophy he spews: “Practice is the road to perfection.”

Christian Lees and Jonah Lees appear as Maurice’s and Jean’s disco-dancing twins (and sometimes caddy), while Jake Davis stars as Michael, their more career-minded son. It’s an under-utilized Rhys Ifans who takes on the main villain role as the director of the British Open, and the man responsible for exposing and banning Flitcroft. Ash Tandon plays Lloyd Donovan, the journalist who sniffs out the Flitcroft story and actually follows through (like journalists once did) … even ten years later when the Flitcroft family is invited to the U.S. for the annual Maurice Flitcroft tournament, where the high score wins.

Isobel Waller-Bridge (EMMA., big sister to Phoebe of “Fleabag” fame) composed the score, and we do get archival footage of Maurice and family over the end credits. Perhaps EDDIE THE EAGLE (2015) is the best comparison for this film, as Flitcroft bore the label, “the worst golfer in the world” … something he vehemently denied. Maurice did manage to inspire others to follow their dreams, and his six sugars in tea may correspond to the level of saccharine the movie develops as it strives to be this year’s feel-good story – and we all know we need one.

Opens in theaters on June 17, 2022

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