Charming Amateur Challenges Elitism in "The Greatest Game"
- Thursday, September 29, 2005
Release Date: September 30, 2005
Rating: PG (brief, mild language)
Run Time: 120 minutes
Director: Bill Paxton
Actors: Shia LaBeouf, Justin Ashforth, Stephen Dillane, Elias Coteas, Luke Askew, George Asprey, Marnie McPhail, Marc James Beauchamp, Jackie Burroughs, and Len Cariou
Just as audiences didn’t need to love boxing to love “Cinderella Man,” or football to enjoy “Remember the Titans,” so they won’t need to love golf to thoroughly relish the drama, history and inspiration of “The Greatest Game Ever Played.”
This is the true story of an amateur golfer, Francis Ouimet (pronounced “you met”) (Shia LaBeouf), who, not unlike this century’s Tiger Woods, takes on the diabolical elitism of a sport that only includes wealthy, upper-class, white, educated “gentlemen.” As a young child, Francis quickly learns the establishment’s entrenched rules, which mandate that working people can participate in the sport only as caddies. Francis accepts his lot as a caddie but continues to hone his golf skills, practicing long into the night hours and hoping beyond hope for a chance to prove himself.
His father, Arthur (Elias Coteas), who ekes out a meager existence in the mines, doesn’t approve of his son’s choice of sports in that he doesn’t want Francis to be disappointed when he hits the wall of exclusivity. He tells his son, “I had dreams, too. But no matter what you do, they’ll never let you cross that street.” His mother (Marnie McPhail), however, continues to encourage Francis in his talent – and even takes him out of school to see the greatest golfer in the world, the famous British champion Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane).
During the show, Harry asks for a volunteer and calls young Francis out from the audience to give him an on-stage golf lesson. When Francis loses his nerve and misses a shot, Harry whispers to him, “Even in your darkest hour, never despair.” He then shows the young boy how to hold steady, block the distractions, and focus. Francis would never forget that advice, but perhaps Harry would regret giving it.
A few years later, a pro golfer recognizes Francis’s talent and invites him to try to qualify for a major tournament. His father refuses to let him try – especially since the entrance fee is $50 – but the two finally make an agreement that, if he doesn’t qualify, he will quit the game and go to school so he can bring home some “honest wages.”
Francis gets an invitation to a pro golfer’s dance at an exclusive gentleman’s club. Thrilled, he thoroughly enjoys attending and dancing with the most beautiful girl at the ball. That is, however, until her father pulls Francis aside and says, “You may have been invited, but don’t get the idea you belong here.” Ouch!
Though Francis plays well, his father’s disapproving face in the crowd distracts him and he misses an important shot, losing the chance to qualify. As promised, he quits the sport and goes into retail. He’s not there long, however, when other golfers who know his talent try to pull him back in to the game. He refuses, saying he hasn’t given up on his dreams; he just has different ones now. They don’t buy it, and soon they’ve convinced 20-year-old Francis to try out for the 1913 U.S. Open.
Against all odds, Francis does qualify, and he submits to the rigorous training offered by good friends. Francis is ill prepared and has a child for a caddy – a chubby (adorable, witty and show-stealing) fifth-grader named Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter), and he is now playing against the best of the best – including his hero, Harry Vardon. His father also tries to discourage him, saying, “A man knows his place and makes his peace with it. Those men don’t earn a place in this world; it’s given to them.”
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