Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Will Smith, Matt Damon
Whatever else you might have to say about Robert Redford, he certainly can direct these feel-good movies with style. He does a much better job, as in this film, when he is not the star. The viewer does not have to suffer through soft shots with the sun perfectly aligned in the background to show Redford's hair in all its golden glory.
This movie is not about the game of golf, although most of it takes place on the golf course. Will Smith plays Bagger Vance, a wandering hobo during the Depression Era that happens along Rannulf Junuh (Matt Damon), a former star golfer suffering from some version of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of his experiences during the War to End All Wars. Junuh's ex-girlfriend, Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron), has a problem. She has opened a new golf course in the middle of the Depression, and desperately needs customers to keep her business afloat. Her solution is to hold a golf extravaganza with the two greatest golfers of all time facing off in a grueling 64 hole competition. The locals won't stand for it, however, unless a local Savannah star will play to represent their own. Enter Junuh, the lonely drunkard who has lost his swing. Between Adele, a young local boy, and Bagger Vance, Junuh is finally convinced to play in the upcoming tourney, before which he has to "find his swing" again or all is lost and Savannah will sink ever further into the depths of personal and financial depression.
Will Smith does a great job as Bagger Vance, the messiah caddy who helps Junuh work out his problems with golf and life. Matt Damon plays Matt Damon with his usual charm, and Charlize Theron is the penultimate crafty Southern belle. There is nothing extraordinary about this movie, but it is worth watching if you are at all interested in the mythic hero's journey and the role of the herald in lighting the path to salvation. If you understand golf the movie makes more sense, but most of the technical details are explained in the course of the film to golf initiates. My father, an avid golfer who was familiar with the actual golfers played in the movie, noted that the swings of these great golfers was copied perfectly, as well as the details of their lives.
The movie is well shot, and the use of special effects is sparse but effective in translating the words of Bagger Vance into visual reality. I wouldn't go out and buy this movie, but it is worth watching once. The DVD version has the usual features - a small and boring featurette as well as words from wrinkled Robert about his view of golf as the game of life. Overall, I give this movie a B+ for the final product and an A for writing.
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