Given director Streitfeld’s poor choice of a fractured narrative, it’s hard to say what would make this adaptation of Golf in the Kingdom better. Someone other than Mason Gamble in the lead, however, would probably make it a little more tolerable.
While her dialogue is severely overdone (except for the women, who get away with long-winded exposition while even the best male actors eventually fail), Streitfeld puts Gamble with some fine character performances. Not to mention David O’Hara’s dynamic performance as a mystical golf pro who challenges Gamble’s world view all through talk of golf.
Golf might play slightly better if one loves golf, but even someone disinterested in that subject can appreciate some of the script’s finer observations (presumably from the source novel). O’Hara always manages to spit out these observations with enthusiasm, but it just gets to be too much. Streitfeld’s dialogue isn’t strong enough clear the muddled exposition hurdle, which she seems to realize at other times and use a dinner party device to get it out.
The film looks beautiful–Streitfeld can compose the shots, she just can’t piece them together into something meaningful (or direct her lead actor). Arturo Smith’s photography is outstanding during the day scenes. At night, however, Smith and Streitfeld rely on something slick and CG-looking. It kills the pastoral feel.
The only thing to recommend Golf is Joanne Whalley’s abilities as a monologist. Not even O’Hara, who’s quite good, makes it worth seeing.
Insert bad golf score pun here.
Directed by Susan Streitfeld; screenplay by Streitfeld, based on the novel by Michael Murphy; director of photography, Arturo Smith; edited by Kathryn Himoff; music by Ian Dean and Evelyn Glennie; produced by Mindy Affrime; released by Golf in the Kingdom.
Starring Mason Gamble (Michael Murphy), David O’Hara (Shivas Irons), Tony Curran (Adam Green), Frances Fisher (Eve Greene), Catherine Kellner (Martha McKee), Julian Sands (Peter McNaughton), Jim Turner (Balie Maclver), Joanne Whalley (Agatha McNaughton), Rik Young (Evan Tyree), Malcolm McDowell (Julian Lange).