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‘The Phantom of the Open’: Robin’s movie review

A man is lying down and looking toward the camera. He has a golf tee between his lips and a ball on top of it. In the background is a group of people standing together. There is text above them that says, “The Phantom of the Open. Based on a true story.”
Sony Pictures Classics
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For Movie Minutes, Robin Holabird takes a look at The Phantom of the Open.

With a message resembling a sports ad — “just do it” — The Phantom of the Open plays on the warm platitude of watching a little guy succeed. Well, sort of succeed. In real life, main character Maurice Flitcroft gained fame and popularity for the worst ever performance at a British Open golf tournament.

A mild-mannered factory worker with no experience golfing, he charmed audiences with his simplicity and audacity. He earned his nickname and the movie’s title as the “Phantom of the Open” by continuing to jump into competitions wearing disguises and using ridiculous aliases. Transferring a mild thumb-nosing humor to the screen, director Craig Roberts uses fast camera work and lots of disco music to ride over the usual visible impediments innate to filming a game of golf.

Still, the director’s key tool comes with his lead actor, Oscar winner Mark Rylance. Often transforming himself into the background as an ideal, practically unrecognizable supporting player, Rylance finds a perfect central role as the unassuming Flitcroft — a twitchy, slow speaker with a surprising spine of steel. Rylance repeats many of the mannerisms he showed as the demented millionaire he played in Don’t Look Up, using them in a more kind-hearted fashion.

Benign, mild, sweet, bland; all those adjectives suit Flitcroft and describe the movie about him as well. The Phantom of the Open celebrates going against the odds and following your dreams — not particularly innovative advice, but not worth fighting about.

This review aired on KUNR FM on Friday, July 1.

Robin Holabird is KUNR’s entertainment reviewer, author, and former film commissioner for the Nevada Film Office. You can browse a full archive of her reviews here.

Robin Holabird reviews movies for KUNR, and her reviews have aired for more than 30 years. During that time, she has had a high profile in the Nevada film community.
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