Making the Grades
Once the golden boy of early 1900's Savannah Georgia, Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) could whap a golf ball to record distances and go just as far with the ladies, especially Adele (Charlize Theron), the daughter of a wealthy man who was building the grandest golf resort in America.
But the horrors of World War I changed Rannulph. Abandoning golf and Adele, he sought forgetfulness in the bottle. Now, with the onset of the great depression, Adele endures the untimely passing of her father and finds herself heir to a resort no one can afford with angry investors begging her to sell at a bargain price. To save the family name, Adele concocts a grand tournament involving two of the best golfers of the day--Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill). Hoping these celebrities will put her course on the map, the town council insists she include a local contestant--Rannulph.
Believing he has lost his swing, Rannulph proves uncooperative even after Adele strips down to her underwear in hopes of enticing him to play (one of two brief sexual moments in the movie). Instead it's the pleadings of young Hardy Greaves (J. Michael Moncrief), the son of an old friend that convinces the former golf whiz to pick up his clubs. Knowing he needs a miracle, Rannulph meets Bagger Vance (Will Smith) late one misty night.
Like a bolt from heaven (something golfers too often experience), Bagger has all the answers. Within a few short days, Rannulph has found his "one true authentic swing" and reenters the religion of golf. With the remainder of the movie focusing on the tournament, we witness the typical straight-down-the-fairway sports story with Rannulph's confidence swinging more wildly than his clubs and Bagger wedging in wisdom between holes.
It's Bagger's quick-fix prose that contributes to this film's greatest flaw--the lack of evidence showing us how hard Rannulph had to work to change his life. Considering Matt Damon (who had never swung a golf club) suffered from separated ribs and blistered hands while he trained intensively for weeks with a PGA pro to play Rannulph, it's ironic that director Robert Redford would fail to knock this necessary ball into the cup.
While children will likely snooze through this puttering script, parents should note the sexual scenes, frequent depiction of alcohol and tobacco use, and brief war footage. For avid golfers, Bagger may provide a spiritual experience. Meanwhile the rest of us (who think birdies belong in nests) will likely see a warm fuzzy clich0xE9 that barely makes par.
Discussion Ideas After The Movie
Teaching ideas and topics to discuss about The Legend of Bagger Vance (2000).
In reality, what sort of process would Rannulph have to accept in order to beat his alcohol addiction and become a world class golfer?