Tin Cup (1996)

Tin Cup is a movie with very bad timing, at least in its appearance at the box office. Though it did well in terms of ticket sales (about $50 million so far), it comes at a time when the obvious "giant" of golf movies is Adam Sandler's brilliant absurdist masterpiece, Happy Gilmore. Tin Cup is good; Happy Gilmore is likely to become a classic.

Nevertheless, Tin Cup is worth seeing as well. Don't make it a golf double feature, though.

Tin Cup is the story of Roy "Tin Cup" McAvoy, a loser who owns a desolate driving range in the godforsaken town of Salome, Texas. It's hard to see how the operation is even managing to keep Roy in beer and stained shirts, since it has no visible patronage or anything that might attract it. Cheech Marin is Romeo Posar, manager of the range and someone who apparently has nothing better to do than hang out in the dust with loser Roy.

Everything changes with the arrival of psychiatrist Dr. Molly Griswold (Rene Russo). She wants to take golf lessons so she can keep up with her boyfriend (and Roy's old college golfing buddy/rival), David Simms (Don Johnson). But, naturally, Roy falls hard for Molly. To impress her, he tries to work out his problems in therapy, ask her out, and finally decides to try to qualify for the U.S. Open tournament so he can finally prove that he can actually accomplish what he sets out to do without defeating himself like he usually does.

(I won't give away the ending. The studio asked audiences not to, even though it doesn't make that much of a difference. Getting there is all the fun of Tin Cup.)

Rene Russo (In the Line of Fire, Get Shorty) is clearly the star of this film by Ron Shelton, the director of Bull Durham, White Men Can't Jump, and the acting tour-de-force Cobb. Indeed, Rene Russo is the star of the moment. She will appear in the upcoming Ransom with Mel Gibson, and was considered to play Dr. Chase Meridian in Batman Forever before Michael Keaton bowed out and Joel Schumacher was allowed to come in and bollocks up the whole franchise. It's easy to see why she's so in demand. With her wonderful smile and stellar comic timing, Russo easily steals the show from Kevin Costner, Don Johnson, and Cheech Marin.

They're far from overwhelmed, however. Kevin Costner gives one of his best performances. ("Even better than Waterworld?" you ask. Yes, even better than Waterworld.) Actually, Costner is quite good as a loser trying to make his big comeback after everyone else has dismissed him. Hmmm...where could he have gotten the motivation for that kind of a role? How could he ever find the necessary identification with such a character to be able to put it on screen convincingly? Hmmm.... Anyway, the old, charming Costner is back this time around. One of my female friends, who shall remain nameless, actually raves about the sex appeal which oozes from Mr. Costner as he lies on the bed in the ramshackle trailer his and Cheech Marin's character share, beer in hand, undershirt stained with the sweat of a sweltering Texas afternoon. Okay. I just take her word for it. I mean, he's charming and entertaining, certainly, but I can't understand my friend's low guttural growl whenever she hears anything about Tin Cup. I just don't think it's justified.

Cheech Marin and Don Johnson are the comic relief from the golf and the romance. They do the job nicely.

Still, the Happy Gilmore comparison bothers me. The golf was more entertainingly shot and fast-paced, the comic timing was beyond superb, and the writing great enough to be admired for years. Tin Cup is slower, longer, less sure of its structure and footing. Still, it is a lot of fun and a bit of romance, and you might even learn a valuable life lesson that's not as pat as the usual Hollywood cliche.

Links for Tin Cup

Internet Movie Database Entry

Roger Ebert Review


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