Craig Roberts’ The Phantom of the Open, while slightly flawed, is a surefire crowd-pleaser with a clever sense of humour, wholesome wit, and an excellent headliner performance by Oscar winner Mark Rylance (Bridge of Spies).
Rylance plays Maurice Flitcroft, a sweet and humble gentleman who is persuaded by his wife Jean (Sally Hawkins) to finally follow some of his ambitions after being so supportive of hers and their children. His primary goal includes Maurice’s newfound fascination with golf – the crane operator would like to play in The British Open Golf Championship. Having never picking up a set of clubs before, Maurice practices and fumbles his way into infamy as one of the worst known golfers in the sport.
Rylance, with the assistance of a consistently good-natured screenplay written by Simon Farnaby (Paddington 2), is winning as Flitcroft; even if his character can’t find his way out of being a public failure. The Phantom of the Open goofs around with Flitcroft’s inability to be worthy competition, but Roberts doesn’t spin the golfer’s personality into a cynical joke for the audience. Instead, Roberts and Farnaby find a niche in the humour and play towards the character’s positive influence. This also benefits the film’s message of goal-chasing: even though you may seem like you’re disappointing yourself in times of strife, someone else may find your efforts to be an inspiration.
The film, unfortunately, frames itself as a flashback of Flitcroft’s life which somewhat spoils the surprise at the end and places the movie in similar company with movies that are very different in tone (Greed to name a recent example). But, I still very much urge movie goers to check out The Phantom of the Open if they’re looking for a great feel-good flick.
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Addison Wylie: @AddisonWylie