Seven Days in Utopia
(PG) Eagle DVD
This golf-based movie drives home its Christian message with a clumsy and heavy-handed swing.
On the road following a disastrous debut crack at the pro golf circuit, young Luke Chisholm (Lucas Black) finds himself in the small town of Utopia, where he meets and is mentored by wise old rancher, Johnny Crawford (Robert Duvall). Johnny, himself an ex-pro golfer, offers to tutor Luke in golf over a period of seven days. Histories are revealed, relationships formed, lessons learned — and Luke receives a second shot at both golf and life.
Though well-intentioned, the film falters due to poor writing and pedestrian directing. The “sport-equals-life” metaphor driving the narrative feels trite and clichéd. Plot set-ups are predictable and characters one-dimensional. The heavy reliance on flash-backs to illuminate Luke’s earlier life (particularly his relationship with his father) gives the film a repetitive, formulaic quality. An overly long, final golf tournament sequence lacks suspense and climactic power.
The actors do their best with roles that are frequently underwritten (such as Luke’s father, whose change of attitude is implausible and unexplained). The great Duvall is constrained by the film’s limitations, but manages to invest his character with the gravitas and integrity required.
The film features beautiful, panoramic scenes of Texan landscapes: pristine rivers, mountains and fields. But do these suggest a “utopia” of ideal perfection (as seems intended) or — to utilise the word’s other meaning — an unreal no-place?
Perhaps most worrying is the movie’s tendency to conflate Christian faith with the values, iconography, and mythic representation of white, southern, small-town rural America.
Seven days in Utopia ends with a teaser: does Luke make his final shot and, within a spiritual context, does it matter? It’s one of the film’s more elegant shots, but by this point in the game it’s hard to really care.
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