Review: Rylance brings its whimsical brilliance to the history of golf

As one of our most talented live actors on screen or stage, Mark Rylance certainly knows how to speak beautifully.

As one of our most talented live actors on screen or stage, Mark Rylance certainly knows how to speak beautifully. But sometimes it seems that in these empty seconds between words the essence of his game is revealed.

He binds, he murmurs, he pauses, he hesitates. He is never afraid to leave a few strokes of dead space, and this keeps us confused – often making us forget that we hear lines from the script.

Rylance is also one of the few actors who can control the entire film, and “Ghost of the Open” is definitely driven by the power of his branded whimsical energy, as it tells the true story of Maurice Flitcroft, a shipbuilder from the North of England who stunned the world of golf. in 1976, performing at the British Open under a false guise – he had never played golf – and scoring the worst qualifying round in Open history. Then he entered several more times, under false names and in disguise, earning the status of a national hero.

But Fleetcroft was no joke. He truly believed that he had a chance, and he was supported by his wife Jean, who encouraged him to follow his dream. Like his two sons, whom he encouraged to do the same – they were world champions in disco dancing (yes, we said they were champions in disco).

So you have a wonderful real story and one of the world’s best actors to tell it, as well as the gorgeous Sally Hawkins in the role of Gene, who brings hue and poignancy to what could have been a stereotypical part (over time sticky dialogues). You also have a hilarious soundtrack, full of references to the era of pop music and original music by Isabel Waller-Bridge.

But with all that, director Craig Roberts and writer Simon Farnaby never show us why Fleetcroft did what he did. What was behind it, uh, the discs? He was clearly serious, but why golf, something he had never tried in his half century on earth? The film is so fascinating that it pretty much goes away without exploring the issue.

In the opening of the series, which summarizes the life of Flitcroft before 1975, we learn that working at a shipyard was the only option for a young man from the working class in Barrow-in-Furness on the north-west edge of England. But when at age 46 social conditions jeopardize his career, his wife urges him to find a new dream. One day, while watching TV, he gets into a golf tournament. Something clicks in his brain. The moment is recorded in a sleep sequence where Fleetcroft rises and catapults out of the actual tee – as if he were a golf ball.

Soon Jean helps him fill out the application forms for the Open. Great, but none of them know what “handicap” means, so they decided to reveal his false teeth and “arthritis”. When his bid arrives, the contemptuous tournament authorities assume no one would be so stupid as to say they are golf pros if they aren’t.

So begins the trick. It doesn’t work, but at the end of the fun day the TV announcer says: “The day belongs to Maurice.” For most of the world, it’s a hilarious joke. Fleetcroft himself is offended by such an assumption. He will return, promising: “Practice is the way to perfection.”

The journalist takes up the story, and suddenly Maurice becomes a “ghost of the open.” The installation of his fame in the media is accompanied by an extremely entertaining dance section under the strains of “Money, Money, Money” Abba. But the authority in golf Keith Mackenzie – the terribly stubborn Rice Ifans – is furious. He forbids Fleetcroft to join any golf clubs. Also very ashamed of Mike’s eldest son who is moving up at the shipyard.

But Jean remains true. “How do you think Jack Nicholson would have done if he had been golfing at 50?” She asks supportively. Morris gently corrects her: “Jack Nicklaus.”

This Jean suggests that perhaps Morris could return to the Open by joining as someone else. Apparently a dashing Frenchman? They are trying fake mustaches. “Tres chic,” she says. “Bonjour,” he replies. Hawkins-Rylance chemistry is fun.

This chemistry is especially strong in places that are pleasing to the crowd, during a tour of Michigan. The final shots of the real Maurice are extremely fascinating and hint that perhaps his story was not as sweet as the one we just saw. But it’s hard to deny that it was a damn nice 18 holes.

“The Phantom of the Open”, released by Sony Pictures Classics, received a PG-13 rating from the American Film Association “for obscene language and smoking.” Duration: 106 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four. Definition of MPAA PG-13: Parents are strongly warned. Some materials may not be suitable for children under 13 years of age.

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Follow AP national writer Jocelyn Noveck on Twitter at: http://twitter.com/JocelynNoveckAP

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