Spewing spiritual platitudes about golf with abandon, Golf in the Kingdom lionizes the sport as, among other overblown things, “an X-ray of the soul,” “a microcosm of the world,” and “the yoga of the supermind.” Based on Michael Murphy’s popular 1971 novel, writer/director Susan Streitfeld’s film tells the tale of young cipher Michael Murphy (Mason Gamble), who, while traveling to India in search of enlightenment, stops to play a game at Scotland’s Burningbush course and, paired with philosopher-guru Shivas Irons (David O’Hara), experiences his own mystical awakening. Even that basic plot description, however, implies a lucidity that doesn’t truly exist in the movie. From the outset, Streitfeld hopscotches back and forth over her tale’s 24 hours with a self-conscious aesthetic affectation (overlapping imagery, shifting camera speeds, elliptical edits) that demolishes any intelligible character or plot development, resulting in a story comprised of pretentious meditative fragments. Whether spending time at a dinner table with Shivas’s full-of-themselves pals, or accompanying Michael and Shivas as they journey to find a legendary sage and scream at the ocean, the film proves devoid of thematic coherence or consequence. The final ball in the bunker: pensive upward-tilting shots of treetops that ineffectually strive for Terrence Malick lyricism.
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on July 27, 2011