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Movie Reviews

Legend Of Bagger Vance  

Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon)
Bagger Vance (Will Smith)
Adele Inveryorden (Charlize Theron)
Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill)
Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch)
Hardy Graves (J. Michael Moncrief)

Directed by Robert Redford Written by Jeremy Leven, based on the novel by Steven Pressfield
Rated PG-13 for some sexual content Running Time: 127 minutes Distributed by Dreamworks
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The Legend of Bagger Vance is a lovely film from director Robert Redford. The film takes place in Savannah, Georgia during the time of the Great Depression in 1931. The story is told through the eyes of a ten-year-old boy, Hardy Graves (Moncrief). When Savannahís richest being, Mr. Inveryorden, unexpectedly commits suicide, the mayor and other town officials plea with his daughter Adele (Theron) to shut down his expensive and unused country club. In protest Adele sponsors a golf tournament with $10,000 going to the winner. She then recruits the two best professional golf rivals in the South, Walter Hagen (McGill) and Bobby Jones (Gretsch), to square off in the tournament. At a city meeting, citizens state that there should be someone from Savannah in the tournament. Hardy immediately recommends and recruits Rannulph Junuh (Damon), who was once the best golfer in the South and the love of Adeleís life. After winning many tournaments, Junnuh went on to fight in WWI and returned psychologically scared. He then decided to pick up a whiskey bottle instead of a golf club. Now, with the help of a mysterious cabbie named Bagger Vance (Smith), who appeared out of know where, Junuh agrees to play in the tournament even though he admits he has lost his swing. Unknowingly, Bagger Vance isnít just helping Junuh find his swing, but also find his life.

I liked this film mostly because its inspirational moments arenít buried in fake melodrama. A lot of people will probably refer to this film as a sports drama, in which I saw it as a human drama of discovery.

Screenwriter Jeremy Leven adapted The Legend of Bagger Vance from the novel by Steven Pressman. From what I have learned about the book, there are some things that were changed, but nothing to rationale. I liked the characters and the patient sequencing of Levenís script. However, I found the best part of the movie being the mystery surrounding Bagger Vance, in which the writer and director leave the character open to your own interpretation. The writing leaves many clues left and right, but it is your generalization of who the character is. I have my own thoughts and ideas of who Bagger Vance is, but if I tell youíre my interpretation, then I feel that I will spoil the movie for you.

Robert Redfordís direction is always creatively inventive. In this film, he captures the sweet representative beauty of Savannah, Georgia. Like he did with A River Runs Through It and The Horse Whisperer, Redford mixes bright colors well to give an entire glow to the picture. I also loved his over the shoulder and subjective camera shots in this film. One prime example is a shot that reveals half of Bagger Vanceís face behind Junuh as the inspirational character recites one of his fabulous speeches. This shot is ordinary, but it is balanced, effective and intriguing. Redford also captures the human drama of the film through his vision and actions. He is just a great director that delivers entertaining stories in a simple manner.

Will Smith is at his best in The Legend of Bagger Vance. Smith is just so friendly and likeable as the inspiring caddie Bagger Vance. The Wild Wild West disappointment is over. Matt Damon also delivers one of his better performances as the lost golfer Rannulph Junuh. Damon is given a lot to work with this character and his choices are admirable. It is so nice to see Charlize Theron getting better roles. I believe she is a splendid actress that was choosing very bad films to work in, like Mighty Joe Young and The Astronautís Wife. However, she began to make better choices last year with The Cider House Rules. Though her role as Adele is not her best performance, she still does a very good job in this movie.

The Legend of Bagger Vance has some slow moments, but Redfordís storytelling should not be missed. I can see this film doing well with adult audiences, I know the adult demographic is urging for a good drama, and this film is their ticket.

Report Card Grade: B+

Beastmanís Movie Reviews
Copyright, 2000 Joseph C. Tucker

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