The Phantom of the Open

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HeavyKids
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The Phantom of the Open 2022

Credits

In Theaters

Cast

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Reviewer

Bob Hoose

Movie Review

Maurice Flickcroft knew approximately nothing about the game of golf. He’d never picked up a club in his life. In fact, he’d never even watched a game on the telly.

But all the pieces came together one night.

Maurice had spent most of his adult existence in a rather humdrum job as a port crane operator. He had dreams of being a world traveler as a young man, but marriage, bills, raising kids all demanded a consistent income. And that’s exactly what “crane operator” offered, if nothing—much—else.

But then the British port industry was nationalized in the early ‘70s, and that came with some, well, less-than-consistent changes. And one of those changes was an onrush of labor cuts. So, Maurice had to start thinking about what his next job might be.

Fortunately his loving wife, Jean, was actually a very loving and supporting individual. She reminded Maurice of all he had sacrificed for her and their three boys. She encouraged him to look for something he actually wanted to do. “It’s your turn now,” she said with a smile. And so Maurice freely set his mind to the possibilities.

Then it happened.

While contemplating career choices one night, he happened to step on their television’s remote and a championship golf match popped up on the screen. It was a tense closing moment when one golfer’s putt fell a little short and another’s slipped with a quiet plunkity-plunk into the final hole.

Cheers, handshakes, backslaps and smiles ensued. And there was talk of prize money and fame.

Now that was a career Maurice could get into. His mind soared with the possibilities. Visions of sparkling tees and golf balls danced before his eyes. Why, his first errantly bouncing attempt at a putt (using a marble and a cane) plinked directly in the cup on the floor. He was made for this game. The world was good.

The next step was to buy the cheapest set of clubs he could find. And then, oh why not, apply for the British Open.

Out of the unexpected blue, he was miraculously accepted. But it didn’t seem like a miracle to Maurice. It was fate. He’s just a whisker away from fame.

Now he just has to figure out how to hit a ball off a tee with that big chunky club. That part is a little tricky.

Ah, no bother. He has a few weeks to practice.

Positive Elements

This film tells the story of the very real Maurice Flickcroft, an amateur golfer who stumbled his way into the highly professional British Open. It’s a smile-worthy tale that grabbed news attention—at least in Britain—back in the 1970s.

Even though Maurice is really quite horrible at the game of golf, his positive spirit and earnest efforts grab the public’s attention, and average Joes everywhere cheer him on.

This is also the story of a family that worked their way through the challenges that came out of Maurice’s Open appearance. We see their sacrifices and love for one another. And this pic makes very strong statements about supportive and loving marital relationships, along with the possibility of families healing after difficult emotional rifts.

Maurice is a simple man who’s also a caring and supportive father and husband. And his twin sons, James and Gene, not only follow their dreams because of his advice, they work to support their dad in his. Maurice also makes a public speech about his love for his wife and his appreciation for all she’s lovingly done for him over the years.

Spiritual Elements

None.

Sexual Content

When Maurice and Jean are both young and falling in love, she admits to him that she has a son born out of wedlock. She thinks that will cause Maurice to walk away, but instead he readily accepts the responsibility of raising the boy as he asks her to marry him. Maurice and Jean kiss on several occasions—publicly demonstrating their love for each other.

While talking in choppy Spanish to a foreign golfer, Maurice mistakenly references his testicles.

Violent Content

Maurice smashes things and thumps people with some errantly launched golf balls. When Maurice is a young boy, he’s picked on by several bullies who smash his artwork.

Crude or Profane Language

Two British variants of the f-word and seven s-words are joined by several uses each of “h—” and “b–tard.” The British crudities “tosser,” “bloody” and “flipping heck” make appearances, too. God’s and Jesus’ names are misused a total of three times.

Drug and Alcohol Content

The film takes place in the 1970s for the most part, and we see lots of adults and younger people smoking on a regular basis, indoors and in public areas. People drink pretty freely as well. We see workers drinking bottles of Guinness with their lunch, and guys carry a bottle on the street from time-to-time, too. People drink beer, wine and mixed drinks at dinner and public parties.

Other Negative Elements

A fellow worker from the port, Cliff, steals things, including golf shoes and clothes, that he gives to Maurice. Maurice accepts them, believing they were actually “given” by other people. It’s only later that Cliff reveals that it was all stolen. At one point, Maurice accepts something that he knows is probably stolen. Maurice and Cliff steal a golf cart.

Vindictive officials from the British Open make life very difficult for Maurice, even though his misleading application to the event was completely innocent. After being barred from any golfing event, Maurice fights back by applying for and entering golf events under a false identity. In fact, he broke the rules, disguised himself and played in the British Open repeatedly under false names.

At one point, Michael—Maurice and Jean’s eldest son—is faced with an ultimatum from his bosses, “You’re either his sort [meaning like Maurice] or our sort. You can’t be both.” Later, all the boys in the family blame their dad for things that haven’t gone well in their careers. (Though they all come to an eventual loving understanding.)

Conclusion

I’d really like to say that The Phantom of the Open—based on the story of the real life “world’s worst golfer”—was an easy hole-in-one from an audience perspective. For in some ways, it is.

Leads Mark Rylance and Sally Hawkins both sparkle in their roles. The film deftly veers from snort-prompting farce to tear-jerking family drama with an easy grace. And the whole oddball tale is kept whimsically fun with a bouncing 70’s disco vibe.

The problem is that there are times when this pic also ends up bouncing off into a foul-mouthed rough; some off-putting moments that didn’t have to be included. And that will be a little too much scratchy sand to wade through for some viewers’ comfort.

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Bob Hoose

After spending more than two decades touring, directing, writing and producing for Christian theater and radio (most recently for Adventures in Odyssey, which he still contributes to), Bob joined the Plugged In staff to help us focus more heavily on video games. He is also one of our primary movie reviewers.