You wouldn't think a movie that uses the game of golf as a metaphor for class struggle could be so entertaining. The Greatest Game Ever Played stars the charming Shia LaBeouf (Holes) as Francis Ouimet, a golfer who, in 1913, rose from caddy to U. S. Open champion at the age of 20--despite the resistance of the powers that be, who thought it unseemly for a lower-class plebian to play the sport of gentlemen.
Ouimet's main competitor is Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane, The Hours), a British professional, still considered one of the greatest players of all time, who fought his own class battles. The two go head to head in a genuinely gripping match, deftly balanced against the juxtapositions of their personal struggles. Is it sentimental and formulaic? Is the outcome a foregone conclusion? Yes, but it doesn't matter--formulas exist because, when executed with verve and dexterity, they work. Bill Paxton, best known as an actor (One False Move, Apollo 13), steps into the director's chair and hits all the right notes, aided by an excellent cast playing colorful characters, a vivid recreation of the time period, glowing cinematography, and an expert pace. The Greatest Game Ever Played works. --Bret Fetzer
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