A Gentleman's Game (2001) / Drama

MPAA Rated: R for language and some sexuality
Running Time: 112 min.

Cast: Mason Gamble, Dylan Baker, Gary Sinise, Philip Baker Hall, Kevin Thorns, Henry Simmons, Ellen Muth, Brian Doyle-Murray, David Zayas
Director:
J. Mills Goodloe
Screenplay: Tom Coyne, J. Mills Goodloe
Review published July 11, 2004

At some point in the filmmaking process, it's a good idea to settle in on what kind of genre you want to stick to.  Generally speaking, it's best to have this sort of thing settled before the cameras start to roll.  A Gentleman's Game is a good example of what can happen when you try to introduce too many competing interests in what should have been a simple, straightforward affair.

Timmy Price (Gamble, Dennis the Menace) is a 13-year-old boy with dreams of being a golfer, but little of the talent.  His father (Baker, Happiness) takes him out to his country club from time to time to learn the ropes, but it's mostly a no pressure situation.  Spurred on with a desire to improve himself, Timmy lands a job as a caddy in the country club, but he has his work cut out for him with the hard-to-please other caddies, and in dealing with some of the well-to-do golfers who don't take lightly to losing.  Timmy has a raw talent for the game, but to hone his skills, he is sent to see a former amateur golfer named Foster (Sinise, Apollo 13) who has long since vowed to give up the game, or assisting those who want lessons. 

As long as Goodloe's film, which is co-written by Tom Coyne from his novel of the same name, sticks to the fundamental aspects of a young boy's desire to play the game to the best of his ability, the film scores quite a few points with some nice, if formulaic, touches.  The acting all around is actually quite good, as is the cinematography (Conrad W. Hall, Panic Room) and music (Jeff Beal, Impostor).  For the first half of the film, it's a pleasant little drama.

Then things get too heavy-handed.  Themes of sex, handguns, suicide, racism, and child molestation rear their ugly heads, and the story becomes far too turbulent to ever recover.  it doesn't become bad, it just becomes different, and with so many important issues bubbling underneath, the modest little story of a boy who wants to play gets lost.  It's just far too heavy-handed for a film about caddying.

A Gentleman's Game is well directed, nicely produced film that has the distance to deliver, but along the way slices into the deep woods, never to be recovered.  It's a shame Goodloe can't take a mulligan.

Qwipster's rating:

2004 Vince Leo