Review by Sean Boelman
Sports comedies are an interesting breed of film, but can leave you with a warm and fuzzy feeling if they are done properly. The golf movie The Phantom of the Open is one of the best films in the genre in recent memory, integrating its hilarious moments well with its heartfelt story about family.
The movie tells the unbelievably true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a working-class man who decides to sign up for the British Open despite having minimal golfing experience, scoring the highest round ever recorded in the history of the tournament. It’s one of the most hilariously bizarre sports stories to be turned into a film in recent memory.
While watching a movie about one of the worst players in professional golf history could have been mean-spirited, Simon Farnaby’s script feels tremendously warm. It never feels like we are laughing at Flitcroft’s misfortune and lack of skill — we are laughing with him at his antics and the fact that he is challenging the status quo in unexpected ways.
But beneath all of the disguises and absurd pseudonyms, there is a genuinely inspiring and heartwarming story here. This is the story of a person who, with the support of his family, set his mind on a dream and accomplished it, even if achieving that dream didn’t look exactly like he expected it to.
Mark Rylance has, for the past few years, been recognized as one of the most talented dramatic actors working today. However, this is one of the few chances he has gotten to flex his comedic chops, and he thrives as expected, bringing an ineffable charm to the character. And his chemistry with co-star Sally Hawkins is absolutely fantastic.
And while this film is arguably more about family than it is about golf, the golfing sequences are fantastic. Golf is notoriously a sport that most people don’t enjoy watching, but the comedic elements certainly do wonders here in making everything more entertaining. It’s perhaps more entertaining to watch someone play golf poorly than to watch them play well.
But even beyond that, director Craig Roberts infuses the movie with a visual style that is absolutely wonderful. There are some dream sequences in the film that give it an almost Big Lebowski-like feel (albeit in a much more wholesome, family-friendly way), and they are executed in a way that is stunning to look at.
The Phantom of the Open is without a doubt one of the best crowd-pleasers of the year so far. It’s a funny, wholesome movie, and it’s the type of wonderful escapism that moviegoers are looking for right now.
The Phantom of the Open hits theaters on June 3.