The Greatest Game Ever Played

“The Greatest Game Ever Played”
(Disney Studios)
Starring Shia LeBeouf, Stephan Dillane, Josh Flitter
Directed by Bill Paxton
Opens September 30th.
Disney Studios’ “The Greatest Game Ever Played” tells the true story of unknown amateur golfer Francis Ouimet (portrayed by Shia LaBeouf), the 20-year old working-class immigrant kid who stunned the golf world when he toppled veteran pro Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane) to win the 1913 U.S. Open.
In 1913, golf was a game for the wealthy and privileged, and that class distinction is at the heart of the film. Ouimet’s father is constantly reminding him that he needs to remember his place and be happy in his class. But when given a chance to participate in the U.S. Open, Francis defies his father and enters the tournament as the local amateur.
At Ouimet’s side is the trash-talking ten-year old Eddie Lowery (Josh Flitter), who turns out to be Ouimet’s biggest strength as his diminutive but knowledgeable caddy.
The film opens at the English seaside where a group of dark-cloaked stern men are removing a poor family from their home in order to build a golf course. When one of the children asks what golf is, he’s told, “It is a game played by gentleman. Not for your kind.” That child was Harry Vardon, who went on to become a six-time winner of the British Open (a record that still stands today).
Throughout the tournament, Vardon is constantly haunted by the memories of those men as he comes to terms with his own class struggles within the sport. That Vardon would end up being beaten by a working class kid is the twist to the story.
Director Bill Paxton uses some unusual computer graphics meant to compress time (five rounds of golf are played during the tournament) and add some dimension to the tee shots. I found some of them to be a bit distracting and out of place in a film set in 1913, but making five rounds of golf exciting to the general audience was surely a challenge. Under normal circumstances, I’d rather watch grass grow then even one round of golf, but I have to admit I was riveted right until the last playoff match between Ouimet and Vardon.
Some of the relationships between the characters could have been developed a little more deeply (like Ouimet and his father), but LeBeouf and Dillane both do a wonderful job portraying two golfers who while so different are really very much alike. Josh Flitter as Eddie Lowery steals the show, and the friendship between Ouiment and Lowery is a highlight of the film.
“The Greatest Game Ever Played” is an uplifting story about two men who defy their class to hone their skills and become the best at their sport. It’s family-friendly and full of teachable moments about dreaming big and always striving to be your best.


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