Review : The Phantom of the Open

If you think of the most British movie you have ever seen, multiply it by ten and then you have The Phantom of the Open. This movie is based on a true story of Maurice Flitcroft who famously played the worst round of golf at the British Open in 1976. The story is told in a classically British style and is rounded out by outstanding performances from all of its cast. The Phantom of the Open is a true crowd pleaser and is the ultimate film to take your parents and grandparents to see.

The story centres around the Flitcroft family, with Maurice (Mark Rylance) a crane operator at a local shipyard who after receiving the news of redundancies at the company decides to finally start living his own life after dedicating his career to his family and adoring wife Jean (Sally Hawkins). Maurice is randomly watching TV and sees an ad for the British Open Golf tournament and decides to enter, despite never having played a game in his life. Jean helps him fill out the application which surprisingly gets through. While Maurice plays and obtains the highest score in the competition’s history, the later part of the film explores the celebrity that Maurice becomes with the public and despite failing, enters the competition, again and again, to attempt to place.

While the film’s central story places Maurice firmly at the centre, the Flitcroft family are a large part of the piece here. Twin sons Gene and James (Christian and Jonah Lees) who play a pair of travelling disco dancing champions are Maurice’s constant support at each match at the Open. The eldest son Mike (Jake Davies) is trying to climb the corporate ladder at the company and is constantly embarrassed by his Dad and his public embarrassments. All of them are such great compliments of Maurice’s life and make up important elements of the story when things focus too much on the golf side.

Rhys Ifans is placed as the film’s villain Keith McKenzie, the head of the British Open who is in a constant game of cat and mouse with Maurice. This goes into overdrive when Maurice starts wearing disguises, hats and fake moustaches with grand names like Count Manfred von Hoffmanstel and Gene Paycheki, this regrettably feels glossed over and could have been a hilarious montage. There is a short story about a reporter who follows Maurice and his journey, while this has the promise of exposing the story and what happened, it kind of fizzles out. It feels like there is an extended cut somewhere with more scenes in it featuring this reporter. 

This film perfectly captures the working class in the UK in 1975. The gritty lens on the film adds to the crane driver setting in a small townhouse. The snooty golf crowd showcase a different side of privileged life in this period of time and while it seems at some stages Maurice comes off as a little simple, he is always inspirational and give it a red-hot-go persona that keeps the heart of the story front and centre. By the end of the film, you understand why the world fell in love with Maurice and the importance of doing something out of your comfort zone.

Director Craig Roberts takes this idea and pushes it into a weird space giving Maurice these crazy dream sequences involving floating clouds, giant golf balls and Maurice questioning his life and existence. It’s an interesting choice that is odd the first time it happens, then the second and third time it completely takes you out of the story. 

The Phantom of the Open is a sweet and endearing story about a working-class family who dare to dream and are not afraid to chase them. Mark Rylance gives a career-defining performance as Maurice, keeping the film moving when things start to slow down. The story never heads where you think it will, which is absolutely a positive thing. If you are looking to be uplifted and inspired, The Phantom of the Open is perfect viewing.

 

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If you think of the most British movie you have ever seen, multiply it by ten and then you have The Phantom of the Open. This movie is based on a true story of Maurice Flitcroft who famously played the worst round of golf...Review : The Phantom of the Open