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Demian Suvorov
Demian Suvorov

The Greatest Game Ever Played(2005) LINK

Set mainly in 1913, the film is about Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf), the first amateur to win the U.S. Open. Amateur golf in that era was a sport only for the wealthy, and Ouimet came from an Irish and French-Canadian immigrant family that was part of the working class. Ouimet watches an exhibition by legendary Jersey golf pro Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) as a 7-year-old boy, and becomes very interested in golf. He begins as a caddie at The Country Club, a posh enclave located across the street from his home in suburban Brookline, Massachusetts, while making friends with the other caddies. He works on his own golf game at every chance, and gradually accumulates his own set of clubs. Francis practices putting at night in his room. He wins the Massachusetts Schoolboy Championship.

The Greatest Game Ever Played(2005)

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The film received generally positive reviews, from golf fans and non fans of the sport alike. Roger Ebert gave it three out of four stars, stating it gave the real history of the greatest golf match with a strong human element while showing the golf play in a "gripping story". He notes that he is "not a golf fan but found (it) absorbing all the same... Paxton and his technicians have used every trick in the book to dramatize the flight and destination of the golf balls. We follow balls through the air, we watch them creep toward the green or stray into the rough, we get not only an eagle's-eye view but a club's-eye view and sometimes, I am convinced, a ball's-eye view."[4] Larry King proclaimed it "every bit as good as Seabiscuit."

Harry is not a gentleman, but he is a class act, and as played by Stephen Dillane, he becomes a perfect foil in the great 1913 game. It would be too easy to make him a villain, but Harry and Francis both embody the tradition of generosity and good sportsmanship later practiced by Sam Snead. To Francis, Harry is an unspeakably grand man. But Harry sees himself in young Francis, and he knows that in the British class system he may be a great golfer but he will never be in the Establishment.

The technique is at the service of a game in which everything is at risk, and we like both players; our affection for them makes everything trickier, and certainly as the final rounds are played, the games themselves seem to have been scripted to create as much suspense as possible. I have no idea if the movie is based, stroke for stroke, on the actual competition at the 1913 U.S. Open. I guess I could find out, but I don't want to know. I like it this way.

Greatest Game seems mildly aware of these initial strikes it has against it. Accordingly, it strives to make itself a tale of class struggles as much as it is about swinging clubs and getting a tiny ball in a barely larger hole. The first image it depicts is of a young English boy being shunned by golfers and made to feel worthless. That boy grows up to be Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane), a repeat professional golf champion who figures as the second most prominent character in the movie. Nicknamed "The Stylist" and renowned on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean for his incomparable skills, Vardon nonetheless has the baggage of being a working class man in an elitist game. His search for acceptance parallels that of Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf), the film's 20-year-old American protagonist.Ouimet is taught by his immigrant father (Elias Koteas) from a young age about the value of hard work. But even paternal disapproval can't get Francis to give up his passion for golf, something he harbors through many years of caddying at the golf course across the street from the Ouimets' home in Brookline, Massachussetts. Once the obligatory backstory and unconvincing young Shia LaBeouf stand-in have run their courses, the movie lays its focus on the path to the U.S. Open. Overseas, the stuffy Lord Northcliffe (Peter Firth, no relation to Colin) is choreographing an English victory with hopes that it will bring him personal gain. He enlists the services of the soft-spoken Vardon and the burly Ted Ray (Stephen Marcus), whose entrance into the tournament demands a scheduling change and immediately makes them the favorites. In the U.S., Ouimet is jazzed about the possibility of being a part of the Open, having been trained by his workplace's weathered pro (Luke Askew). A number of obstacles must be overcome: a stiff $100 entry fee, the disdain of the governing powers, and the lingering doubts of Francis's father. Though Ouimet narrowly misses qualifying and ends up working in retail, a second chance is posed and the allure of playing alongside his childhood idol Vardon proves too strong to turn down. It's utterly clear where this is all leading for the passionate amateur golfer up against the odds. To tell the story and make it more palpable, other characters (or caricatures) are thrown into the mix: Bernard Darwin (Robin Wilcock), the British reporter Northcliffe has assigned to cover Vardon's anticipated success; John McDermott (Michael Waver), a fiery red-headed American who is looking to win the Open for a third straight year; Sarah Wallis (Peyton List), the obligatory love interest clearly fabricated for this film, who takes a liking to Francis unlike the rest of her prejudiced family; and most significantly, Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter), a spunky, pint-sized 10-year-old truant who becomes Francis's caddie out of what feels like an anachronistic appeal for the support of younger viewers. But ultimately, this is Francis's film, even with some amount of character development granted to Vardon. And down through the three-way playoff final, which Darwin describes as "David versus two Goliaths", the outcome is naturally never in doubt.Greatest Game proceeds like a a series of attempts to make golf seem exciting for someone not playing it. In his sophomore directorial effort, Bill Paxton, the longtime actor best known for his work in James Cameron films, employs a number of techniques to raise the stakes for a methodical activity that has long been of niche interest. All the CGI and editing tricks, which are liberally and often needlessly summoned, can't raise the excitement level enough. The movie is never as boring as one might fear, but never interesting enough to make the endeavor feel worthwhile, in spite of the story's measurable appeal. Part of that may be because, for all the tinkering that can be done, this is still primarily about a stuffy bunch of white men. They are surrounding a kid who doesn't look like he's 20 but whose character seems headed down the same path. As a result, the viewer might wonder not only why he or she is supposed to care, but just why so many reporters and countrymen are so invested in golf and this one tournament.Various layers can be detected, from American/Britain unease to the two-way bias the haves and have-nots hold for each other to the contrast of Francis's supportive mother and disapproving father, and while these add depth, they don't make for a thoroughly gripping or original presentation. The cast of Greatest Game leaves a bit to be desired. It's tough to watch Shia LaBeouf try drama and struggle while being aware of his remarkable comedic prowess. Though one hopes this decent performance will further his career, it seems like a turn that should come after years and years of providing laughter. This project may be the polar opposite to LaBeouf's clever Disney Channel series "Even Stevens" and it feels like a misuse of his great talent, for his unique comedic flair he has previously shown goes untapped (for good reason or not) and his character isn't really relatable enough to merit the sympathy the movie seeks to elicit. It's difficult to understand or appreciate Francis's motivations; why he loves golf and admires Vardon, for instance. The movie suffers on account of this, for the lead falls closer to "boring" than being someone we can warm to. As his father, Elias Koteas, usually known for his range and expressiveness, gets bogged down in a fake-sounding French accent and a one-note character. The quest for paternal acceptance is a backdrop, but it's obvious that approval (like the U.S. Open) will be won, in spite of Mr. Ouimet's disdain for the upper class and golf. On the other hand, the two British pros are capably depicted. Stephen Dillane revels in restraint and makes the gentlemanly Vardon an unexpectedly sympathetic foe, even if the movie goofily summons ghosts to illustrate the pretentious doubters of his youth that haunt him. As Ted Ray, Stephen Marcus gets to portray perhaps the film's boldest persona, and he does so without breaking the mood.The Greatest Game really does have its fair share of good and bad qualities. Among the positives, the film never gets bogged down in the specifics of golf but (rightfully) expects you to follow along. Among the negatives, it's never as terse as it could be, the climax goes on far too long, the style feels a bit heavy, and despite giving off the air that its not, the movie is still basically a by-the-numbers underdog story. The invented romance subplot is not explored enough to justify its presence, and this is indicative of the basic problem with the screenplay by author Mark Frost (whose career has taken him all over the place, from Minneapolis's Guthrie theatre to David Lynch's cult favorite "Twin Peaks" and now the big screen Fantastic Four and its forthcoming sequel). It aims to balance historical accuracy with the expectations and hopes of a modern audience. The end result is that the entire movie feels like formula (albeit grounded in almost too-good-to-be-true reality) crossed with efforts to make golf exciting. Neither is especially appealing and only those who already love golf may leave fulfilled.

I have a confession. I hate golf and see no purpose in playing golf and would rather watch a blank television screen than a golf tournament. So it's a very hard sell trying to get me to like a film about the topic. The only reason I rented the picture from Netflix was because it was included in Leonard Maltin's book "151 Best Movies You've Never Seen" and I am trying to watch all 151 films. Plus, it IS possible I might enjoy the film despite myself.I dare say that I am NOT unusual in not liking golf. In fact, most movie viewers don't like golf. So it makes me wonder why Disney Studios made the film in the first place. And, despite being a well made movie, it didn't do particularly well at the box office.The movie was directed by Bill Paxton, the late actor who only directed a few projects. This is surprising, because the film is well made all around and doesn't look like the work of a relative newbie. Technically speaking, it is well crafted...with some lovely acting, gorgeous camerawork and some odd but innovative CGI. I liked the look and feel of the film a lot. But there also were a few problems. Although the story of Francis Ouimet is compelling, the filmmakers chose to change some of the details...changes that seemed unnecessary. The biggest was making the match as close as they did in the film when Ouimet actually destroyed his two competitors in the tie-breaker. A few things also felt a bit like chiches--the father who hated his son playing the game THAT much, the fact that the 10 year-old caddy was THAT cute and precocious, the amount of class warfare in the story and a bit more. Much of this just felt like cinematic plot devices meant to inspire the audience more...when the story itself, warts and all, was more than enough already.Overall, this is a film golf lovers would die to see...and for good reason. But as for the rest of us, even if well made...who really wants to see a golf picture? 041b061a72


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