Maurice Flitcroft, a dreamer and unrelenting optimist, managed to gain entry to The British Open Golf Championship Qualifying in 1976 and subsequently shot the worst round in Open history, becoming a folk hero in the process.
‘The Phantom of the Open’ is a quirky British comedy about one of those lovable oddballs that feels uniquely British – not too dissimilar in subject matter and tone to that of ‘The Duke’, the recent Roger Michell film. That man is Maurice Flitcroft (Mark Rylance), a middle-aged crane driver from Barrow-in-Furness, who decides to take up Golf and enter the British Open, despite never having swung a club or had any interest in the sport previously. It seems incredible today with everything a couple of clicks away on the internet that a complete novice could make it through the vetting process, but Flitcroft did and he made it into the qualifying competition for the tournament.
The film has a decent underlying underdog premise but as it wears on it becomes increasingly apparent that it’s a bit too thin to stretch to the length of a movie, and the attempts to build out the family life of Flitcroft and add some social commentary are below par (come on, it’s a golf movie!). It does have some laughs in it, mainly when Rhys Ifans (as Keith Mackenzie, the Open convenor) and his exaggerated Scottish accent are on screen, but every time it moves away from the golf and tries to pull at the heartstrings it didn’t do it for me. Mark Rylance stars as Flitcroft and he makes a choice to play the role straight, which I think would have mostly worked had he not been channeling that same weird off-kilter approach that he had in ‘Don’t Look Up’ (where he was terrible). Rylance is a good actor but I’ve not been impressed by his recent performances to say the least.
I suspect ‘The Phantom of the Open’ will find its home on television as an easy watching middle of the road British comedy, and I’m sure plenty of people will enjoy it, but for me, whilst finding the underlying premise funny, the movie felt very lightweight and possibly just about made par (sorry!).
Directed By: Craig Roberts
Starring: Mark Rylance, Sally Hawkins, Rhys Ifans and Mark Lewis Jones