The Phantom of the Open REVIEW

There were two names attached to this film that really made me excited about it. First is the star, Mark Rylance. He got the upset win of the Oscar (over Sly Stallone in Creed) for Bridge of Spies with Tom Hanks. And while he’s done a few films I haven’t cared for, he’s always great; his movie The Outfit currently sits near the top of my Top 10 movies for the year.

The second name is Craig Roberts. He was in one of my favorite movies of 2010 – Submarine. He played a teenager trying hard to lose his virginity and navigate the trials and tribulations of high school. It was brilliant. His mom was played by the always wonderful Sally Hawkins (The Shape of Water), and she’s also in this movie. Oh, anyway, Roberts isn’t in this movie, he’s directing it. I was surprised to find it is his third film, and that his previous indie efforts were well-received. Now he’s in the big leagues with this picture.

This is the true story (well, you know how that goes with movies) of Maurice Flitcroft (Rylance). He was let go from his job as a crane operator, and his wife (Hawkins) tells him how he shouldn’t worry about retiring, since he had sacrificed so much for the family (we see a touching early flashback where he proposes to her, not knowing she had a young child). She tells him he can retire and relax, and he ends up catching golf on TV and starts playing. We see him filling out a form and lying that he’s a professional, and ending up in a prestigious tournament in the ‘70s. He ends up shooting a record-setting round of 121 at the qualifying for the 1976 Open Championship (because of how bad that score is). This makes him a media darling, as everyone is perplexed as to how this even happened.

Early on there were a few problems for my wife and I (she hated it, too). It reminded us too much of The Duke from last month (Jim Broadbent and Helen Mirren). And, Flitcroft is so unlikeable. Yet he’s not supposed to be, he just was to us. Maybe it’s because I didn’t find him this rascally little scamp that’s just trying to practice at a golf course run by stuffy, elite jerks that don’t want someone from his class around them. Instead, he’s just an annoying character. Every time he spoke, I cringed. I’m not sure if it was the director or the actor, but Flitcroft often comes across as somebody that’s along the lines of Forrest Gump or Chauncey Gardner. It’s not until later in the film (with disguises) that he’s a bit more fun with his shenanigans. Maybe I’m just a jerk that can’t simply fall all over a character like Eddie the Eagle (I hated that film, too). There has to be more than just the one-dimensional characters that filled the screen here. 

Roberts also doesn’t properly work in the side story of his two sons always practicing their dance moves so they can become disco dancing stars. At one point my wife asked if they were mentally challenged.

I did chuckle at the end, when I heard of some of the other names he’d use to try and crash golf tournaments (Arnold Palmtree, Gene Paychecki), yet every time I heard his name – Flitcroft – I just thought of schemer Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon) in the brilliant Election.

For folks who looking for a light, British comedy and are easily entertained, they’ll be glad they saw it. For me, it just wasn’t up to par. 

1 ½ stars out of 5.

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