Reviewed by: Ed Cox
|Featuring||James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ), Malcolm McDowell, Jeremy Northam, Claire Forlani, Aidan Quinn|
|Director||Rowdy Herrington (A Murder of Crows; Striking Distance)|
|Producer||Kim Dawson, Tim Moore, John Shepherd|
|Distributor||Film Foundry Releasing|
This film is based on a true story. Overcoming a sickly childhood, Bobby Jones became a golfing phenomenon by the age of 14, later earning the title “Best Golfer in the World.” He won all four major golf tournaments in one year—the Grand Slam—a record that has never been broken. He then stunned the world by retiring from competitive golf in order to devote his time to his wife and family. He was only 28.
Here’s what the distributor says about their film: “Before Tiger Woods… before Jack Nicklaus, before professional sports became the behemoth industry it is today, shined one of the most gifted natural athletes the world has ever known. A man whose extraordinary talent and will to win earned him the Grand Slam of golf—a record he still holds to this day—and universal recognition as one of the greatest golfers in history. A reluctant hero, his grace and charm made him one of the popular figures of his day. His name was Bobby Jones.
James Caviezel (The Passion, The Count of Monte Cristo, Frequency) brilliantly portrays Jones in this inspiring story of an extraordinary man struggling to find balance in his life. As a boy, his competitive zeal and mastery of the sport propelled him into the national spotlight drawing huge, even boisterous, crowds to the tournaments he played. But his fiery temper and pressure from family, friends, fans, and press turned his fun into toil. His fierce ambition collided with his personal integrity, and he faced the reality that the hopes, dreams and fortunes of the people he loved the most were being sacrificed for his career. Under this unbearable burden his heroic nature became clear.
Completing degrees in mechanical engineering, English literature and law, he then fell in love with Mary Malone (Claire Forlani—Meet Joe Black, , Mystery Men), and started a family, all the while planning an exit from the competitive world of golf, with hopes of returning to playing it for fun again, as he did as a boy.”
“After playing Jesus, I was attracted to the role of Bobby Jones,” said Caviezel. “He was an extraordinary man who overcame his weaknesses and achieved one of the greatest triumphs in sports history. More importantly, he was a man of integrity and faith—a devoted husband and father. His life shows us that greatness comes from goodness, and having your priorities straight.”
“Bobby Jones—Stroke of Genius” chronicles Jones’ rise to fame: his heavenly golf swing; his dashing smile; his unrivaled intensity, wit and intelligence; and his impeccable integrity—during one major tournament, he admitted to slightly moving his ball before striking it, despite the fact that no one else saw it; the one-stroke penalty cost him the tournament. And yet, Jones’ primary obstacle to greatness were his weaknesses—a spirited temper, a self-imposed perfectionism, grueling stomach pains brought on by stress, and a crippling disease. Through it all, Jones emerges victorious—an inspiring example of human courage in the face of adversity.
Shhh! Mr. Jones is approaching his tee shot…
If it is possible to hit one out of the park in a golf movie, Bobby Jones—“Stroke of Genius” does it with style. It is a wonderfully clean movie with only one glare—some bawdy language on the golf course. However, even this is tolerable as the language is genuine for the characters (any one who has played golf will have heard it before)—“there are just some emotions that cannot be experienced with a golf club in your hand.” As the character of Bobby Jones matures, you see him leaving the things he did as a child (anger, handling frustration, swearing, etc.) but NEVER is the Lord’s name taken in vain.
There are NO temptations to the eye in this film; in fact, Jones runs from temptation a number of times (he receives offers for hotel room keys, dancing with painted ladies, etc.). A drunk offers to buy him a round, and he flatly states “I already have one.” When his date is besmirched with a lymric, he leaves the crowd he came with to chase the one he has found. Bedroom scenes are played out to show the results of the pressure that Bobby is under from tournament play (awakening to run to the bathroom to be sick) instead of anything else.
Mr. Jones’ mother appears to be a follower of astrology, with one childhood teaching vignette and one reference by her in Bobby’s adulthood (see Deuteronomy 18:10). Bobby’s father has his own demons to fight, choosing to run in the opposite direction of his father’s instruction (playing golf on the Sabbath is a recurring theme). Proverbs 22:6 enters here (“Raise up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it”). Bobby’s father obviously does not depart from it in the fact that Bobby himself is taught to live life by a moral code that is hard to find anywhere, let alone in the sporting world.
Mr. Jones’ spiritual state is never dealt with directly in the film, but his actions in life reveal that he was at least raised in a moral home. He honors his father by playing golf, his mother by going to college, his wife by a) clinging only to her (Genesis 2:24) and b) retiring from the game he loves. Mr. Jones’ life is played out with impeccable acting skill by James Caviezel (The Passion of the Christ) who himself honors the character through his approach to the portrayal.
I want to stress just how wonderful this film is. True (as my wife observed) it is a sports movie. After all, Bobby Jones became famous for his golf swing, not his days in court. But that said, it does two things extremely well. First it demonstrates how a man can live his life with honor and virtue and still be successful (sticks in the craw of “nice guys finish last”). Second it surrounds that theme with good theater. While the scenes rarely change (unless you put a coat of paint on the clubhouse of St. Andrews, you are going to recognize it again and again during the course of his life), there is great attention to detail. The golf balls and clubs progress, the cameras used by the press follow suit. The cars and clothes certainly change, but so do the clichéd phrases of the time. Your attention is drawn to the characters, their development and interaction as they learn from life and each other. Oh that more movies would dare to stand for something instead of stand in the way of something.
James Horner wrote a wonderfully understated score for this film, allowing the acting and scenery to carry the day (it would have been very easy to slip in some rocky riffs to really cheese up the production). The bottom line on this film is this is just a flat out wonderful theatrical production and performance. I have mentioned a few things to be ready for (language on the course early in the film, two brief references to astrology), but in very large measure this is a wonderful movie based upon an excellent real-life story. This film is playing to a limited release, so its numbers are not going to be great, which will probably in turn limit its playing time. Take the effort to find it, take the time to go see it. This one is worth full price.
Violence: None / Profanity: Mild / Sex/Nudity: None
JIM CAVIEZEL ON PLAYING BOBBY JONES
“I knew very little about Bobby Jones. I just loved the story, and I felt that (despite having just played Jesus) I couldn’t think of a finer man to play. It’s a great film for young people who are trying to find their way. Nowadays, sports stars and other celebrities say, “I’m not your kid’s role model.” It’s an excuse to act however they want. But Bobby Jones wasn’t about that.
He was a man who was flawed, but who had an extraordinary amount of integrity, something money can’t buy. His pureness drew me to him. That’s my own heart, and exactly the kind of character I try to emulate. No man is perfect. In order for a piece of coal to change into a diamond, it has to undergo some serious heat and pressure. Bobby Jones had to learn to control his temper. And he had to struggle with a horrible, crippling disease. Yet he handled his suffering like a champion; never talking about it or complaining.
These are the challenges that forged his character. When you have an ailment as a young person, you have to work harder at things, and that work ethic pays off later in life. People like that tend to excel. The same was true for me in sports. I had to work for it. And acting was the same way. Maybe my work ethic is how I compensate when things didn’t come easy. When life seems unfair, you have to persevere. Bobby Jones would throw his golf clubs out of frustration, and eventually his temper almost cost him his career. But that’s not how the story ends. Bobby Jones overcame his weaknesses. He triumphed, and that’s why this film transcends golf.
In The Passion you saw violence, because violence was a real and important part of the story. With Bobby Jones, we see the reality of a human being who struggles, who has problems like we all do. He suffered a great deal, but he finished well. Bobby Jones played the game of life as well as he played the game of golf. Sports teaches you a lot about lifeàlike the importance of having rules. To succeed in life, God gave us commandments to follow. They’re hard, but we have to try. If we fail, we get back up again and that’s what Bobby did. He learned about life, and about love and family. He learned that there’s more to life than winning championships.”
Watch the trailer at: www.bobbyjones.tv