The Greatest Game Ever Played

Directed by Bill Paxton

> > Apr 2006

The Greatest Game Ever Played - Directed by Bill Paxton
By Stephen BroomerYoung Francis Ouimet (Shia LaBeouf), descended from impoverished working-class French Canadian immigrants, is a golf caddy in early 20th Century America. He nurses a stunted childhood passion for golf and a devoted admiration for celebrity golfer Harry Vardon (Stephen Dillane). Ouimet’s talent is spotted by a club member and a clubhouse operator, who both conspire to enter him in an amateur competition, much to the dismay of his father (Elias Koteas). Soon, Ouimet finds himself ascending the social ranks as an instrument of stateside interests and competing in the U.S. Open to win the prestigious championship from his British-backed idol, Vardon. Best known as an actor, Bill Paxton has few credits as a director, and what credits he has vary enormously in regards to subject and scale (he was responsible for the cult classic Barnes and Barnes video "Fish Heads” and the twist-centred psychodrama Frailty). With a long-running career in leading roles in mainstream cinema, he wouldn’t appear as an immediate choice for directing this feel-good tale of the American immigrant experience. Yet, this period piece is powerfully staged and the lead performances bear the mark of distinguished, subtle direction. These performances are charming and the art direction is suitably sepia-toned and theatrical. With a few cloying exceptions, the story is handled with taste and amiable attention to detail. Beyond being a competent sports film, it is a valid attempt at communicating an era in American nationhood when the working class knew they were the working class, when class ascension was such an apparent impossibility that figures who could claim such a feat were inspirational, mythic and larger than life. The DVD contains separate audio commentaries by Paxton and writer Mark Frost, and a series of featurettes, one on-set, the others historical. (Buena Vista)
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