With a message resembling a sports ad--just do it--The Phantom of the Open plays on the warm platitude of watching a little guy succeed. Well, sort of succeed. In real life, main character Maurice Flitcroft gained fame and popularity for the worst ever performance at a British Open golf tournament.
A mild-mannered factory worker with no experience golfing, he charmed audiences with his simplicity and audacity. He earned his nickname and the movie’s title as the Phantom of the Open by continuing to jump into competitions wearing disguises and using ridiculous aliases. Transferring a mild thumb nosing humor to the screen, director Craig Roberts uses fast camera work and lots of disco music to ride over the usual visual impediments innate to filming a game of golf.
Still, the director’s key tool comes with his lead actor, Oscar winner Mark Rylance. Often transforming himself into the background as an ideal, practically unrecognizable supporting player, Rylance finds a perfect central role as the unassuming Flitcroft, a twitchy, slow speaker with a surprising spine of steel. Rylance repeats many of the mannerisms he showed as the demented millionaire he played in Don’t Look Up, using them in a more kind-hearted fashion.
Benign, mild, sweet, bland, all those adjectives suit Flitcroft and describe the movie about him movie as well. The Phantom of the Open celebrates going against the odds and following your dreams, not particularly innovative advice, but not worth fighting about.