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The Legend of Bagger Vance

The Legend of Bagger Vance

Will Smith presents his Bagger Vance in a sensitive, gentle and mysterious manner.  It's a beautiful performance to watch as he uses his voice in a cadence which is comforting and confident.  We are never quite sure if he exists or if he is the suppressed positive force in Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) created from imagination.

Under the direction of Robert Redford, each character is described by the narration of Jack Lemon, the present day Hardy Greaves - played appealingly as a child by J. Michael Moncrief, a young boy who loves golf and sees Junuh as his hero.  Equally, Hardy is ashamed of his father who must sweep streets and divide his living room for rent during the great depression of the thirties.

Golf is the metaphor for Junuh's battle to recover from World War I shell shock.  As Vance tells him he's got to "Get the swing back"; its meaning is clearly not for golf, but for life.  Like the sport which is so beguiling to young Hardy, life is filled with traps, hazards and missed opportunities.

We see Damon's Junuh, a golf legend in Savannah, battle explosions and barb wire in France as he orders men to move on the enemy and certain death - he learns he is no longer invincible.  His power on the course has been so impressive that sports writer Grantland Rice (Lane Smith) comes to see his return.  But Junuh has been so severely traumatize by the battles in Europe that he doesn't return home for years, leaving Adele Invergordon (Charlize Theron), daughter of a powerful business man and his lover, without a word of explanation.  It takes Hardy to convince Junuh he must again commit to the game they both love.

After Adele's father commits a depression suicide, she is determined to save his world class golf course at Krewe Island, by bringing Bobby Jones (Joel Gretsch) and Walter Hagen (Bruce McGill) to play in a celebrity match with the enormous prize of ten thousand dollars.  As the price for their support, the town fathers insist that Junuh play in the event as a favorite son.  Bagger Vance appears just in time and plays the role of caddy and mentor or inner voice moving Junuh from drunk to challenger back on the course.

Will Smith is perfect as the mystic Vance and Matt Damon smiles like a young Robert Redford, while Charlize Theron sports delightful hats and dresses from the period.

Redford presents the southern city in a way which makes us long for Spanish moss and early morning mist.  It is a comfortable world with imperfect but positive folks in a town with pride in itself.  There is a gentleness in their daily lives and the anger and hate we see so often in films about the South does not appear.  We see the Savannah golf tournament and the world of Junuh through the eyes J. Michael Moncrief's Hardy somewhat as we saw The Natural through the eyes of the bat boy.  And we learn that Hardy Greaves will be called to the last round by the Legend of Bagger Vance.

 
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The Legend of Bagger Vance
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