The Long Game (2024)


The Long Game Review

There are expectations created by a movie about a high school golf team made up of Mexican-American teenagers in the 1950s. There will be sunshine-filled greens (writer-director Julio Quintana has worked with Terrence Malick), condescension and overt racism, setbacks, supportive wives and girlfriends, cozily nostalgic ’50s music, doubting family members, rousing pep talks, and a triumphant victory. “The Long Game” delivers all that, engagingly told with earnestness and skill.

JB meets the young caddies when one of them accidentally drives a golf ball into his car window and shatters it. Instead of punishing them, he offers to let them help him start a golf team at the school. The standout is Joe (Julian Works), who initially declines but soon joins in. When Frank sees how dedicated the teenagers are they build their own holes to practice on he agrees to be the assistant coach.

Some of JB’s goals for the team are at odds with each other. He wants them to tuck in their shirts, be respectful and fit in look like they belong there. He tells them not to speak Spanish on the golf course. “The most important thing,” he tells them, “is for people to see Mexicans golfing.” But he also wants them to be proud of who they are which can mean not fitting in. When Joe says he doesn’t want to “perform in front of rich bastards who don’t respect me,” JB understands that fitting in only takes them so far.

Oscar Nuñez from “The Office” is a school principal with connections, and Cheech Marin (back on the golf course after “Tin Cup”) is reliably lovable as the golf club groundskeeper who wears a cage like contraption to keep himself from getting hit by stray balls. The team goes to two diners: one where they are denied service and another across the border where they think they’ll be at home but are heckled for being American. JB faces his own ethical quandary when he’s offered a bribe and then threatened to shut down the program.

If you know the genre, you know we’re going to get some golf metaphors about life. Golf does seem to inspire more metaphors than any other sport maybe because it’s beyond individual eyesight, because it’s an honor system without referees or wildly cheering fans in bleachers or because there’s meditative walking between holes; maybe it’s business executives playing golf or that the economics of a golf course have limited it to those who can afford to play, making it the province of the wealthy and powerful.

In golf, long game is about power, distance and direction. Short game is when player approaches final shot into hole control, strategy, fine-tuning. For this team and their coach? Long game is whatever it takes just to play and get on track toward championship even if that means smiling at insults and swallowing pride while competition cheats along; ultimately though it’s not about golf but dedication resilience joy of finding you can do better than your dreams.

Watch The Long Game For Free On Gomovies.

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