The Phantom of the Open arrives in theatres on March 18th.
Mark Rylance is having a great year. From parodic sociopathic tech CEO in Adam McKay’s Don’t Look Up to the Home Alone-Esque antics of an expert tailor in The Outfit, it’s clear that Rylance is an actor of many hats. Perhaps the one that fits him best is a flat cap as he tees up to play Maurice Flitcroft, known by some as ‘The World’s Worst Golfer’, but a more appropriate title may be The Phantom of the Open.
Based on a real-life tale, Roberts’ yarn follows Flitcroft from his humble beginnings in Barrow-on-Furness to his lightning-bolt discovery of the world of Golf, with the ambition to enter the 1965 Open Championship. Craig Roberts’ creative flair has come a long way since his original short Scratching, arriving at an accomplished and confident oeuvre that hints at influences from iconic 50s and 60s British films. Here there is an Anderson-Esque whimsy blended with the visual dynamism of Monty Python. Yet, Phantom of the Open is indelibly his own.
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Rylance’s portrayal of Flitcroft is stirringly heartfelt in his intrepid optimism – he does not fear his mistakes but welcomes them and embraces them as part of his Flitcroftian philosophy, succinct in the mantra of ‘practice is the road to perfection.’ The Phantom of the Open would pair well with The Duke as a double-bill of Northerners sticking it to institutions and inspiring their communities.
There’s a phenomenally funky soundtrack weaved through Flitcroft’s moves on and off the green, collating a brilliant array of fabulous funk and uplifting brass & strings from composer Isobel Waller-Bridge, a rising talent in the composing world. Many of the film’s best tracks come as the backing to Flitcroft’s real-life disco dancing twins, encouraged by the unwavering optimism of their father to follow their dreams. Roberts has crafted a hilarious film that flows with sincerity and quintessential Britishness – a portrait of the eclectic history of communities-as-families in supporting dreams. There’s something innately relatable about championing the success of someone dedicated to their pursuits, and Rylance & Roberts make that relatability palpable.
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The Phantom of the Open captures the pure spirit of what Maurice Flitcroft meant to the golfing world – not as a laughing stock but rather as an unexpected source of inspiration. He was, as they say, the ‘People’s Golfer’, a rare relatable figure on the grand stage of the Open. Rhys Ifans makes a worthy adversary in the foil of Keith Mckenzie, President of the Royal & Ancient Golf Society. Flitcroft’s effortless unflappability against Mckenzie’s incredulous frustration at his perceived mockery of the sport allows for some side-splitting encounters. They’re like two middle-aged titans going toe-to-toe with one another through their curt correspondence.
Flitcroft was the definition of fake it til you make it – he never believed he was any less deserving of a place or the opportunity to prove himself than anyone he played with. It’s just like Lady Gaga once said: there can be 100 people in a room, and 99 of them don’t believe in you – it only takes one to change your whole life. For many, that was Maurice Flitcroft. But for Flitcroft, his wife Jean acted as his rock. There’s an endearingly eternal love felt between Sally Hawkins Jean and Rylance that’s decoded through what’s left unsaid in the most tender of moments. If you’re ever looking to improve your film immediately, you need only cast Hawkins in a role.
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The Phantom of the Open is a marvellously heartfelt stroke of quintessential Britishness. Rylance is sweetly hilarious, inspiring you like no other in his sweet dedication to the ‘People’s Golfer’. At the same time, Roberts has mastered a style that pays tribute to decades of British filmmaking, and here he has set a standard that will be tough to match – because this film is a hole in one.
The Phantom of the Open is a marvellously heartfelt stroke of quintessential Britishness. Rylance is sweetly hilarious, inspiring you like no other in his sweet dedication to the ‘People’s Golfer.’