Our regular features here on Pajiba — specifically, Twisted Masterpieces, Underappreciated Gems, and even Pajiba Blockbusters — don’t dabble in the mainstream too often. Big studio films, particularly comedies, fall more under our Hangover Theater banner, offered up as comforting salves for the swelling brains of our desirably smug, over-educated readership with little tolerance for pedestrian pablum, except where sci-fi is concerned, in which case almost all is forgiven by that Achilles geek gene.
Today’s review could’ve easily felt at home amongst the other Hangover Theater entries — it’s Saturday afternoon comfort cinema, great watching when you have one arm hanging over the couch cushion and a string of drool hanging precariously from your lips. It could’ve also fit snugly in the Underappreciated Gems, if only because — though it struck a solid $53 million in gold at the box office — it is often overlooked when “best of” sports movies are compiled. But I thought our Blockbuster series needed a representative from the sports genre, and I felt that Tin Cup best typified the smart-ass, fuck it anti-hero sensibility of the site, even if most sports movies themselves are underappreciated by our readership. After all, feel-good sports movies, even great ones — Hoosiers, Rudy, Seabiscuit and Rocky — are a dime a dozen. But before Tin Cup came along, the moral victory — the ability of stubborn pride, inner demons, and bullheaded stupidity to prevail - was rarely celebrated in the sports movie. And while Tin Cup may not be the best sports film of all time, in my opinion, it does feature the best ending.
And I fucking hate golf.
But goddamnit: Sometimes it’s not about winning, it’s about the glory, you fucking pussies. Balls over brains. “When a defining moments comes along, you define the moment or it defines you.” The way that Tin Cup crashes and burns into glory in the final minutes is movie defining. If Kevin Costner had taken the same risks with his movie choices post Tin Cup (the last decent movie in of his career, save for the little seen Upside of Anger), he may not be floundering around in shitty movies like Swing Vote. Tin Cup is to the sports genre what The Fountain is to Darren Aronofsky, what Vanilla Sky is to Cameron Crowe, what Solaris is to Clooney and Soderbergh, what John McClaine was to the action movie genre at the time, and what Brokeback Mountain was to Jake Gyllenhaal and Heath Ledger’s careers: A big fuck you to studio formulas and career expectations. Greatness courts failure. The payoff may not always work (Vanilla Sky, Solaris, The Fountain), but you have to appreciate the balls it takes take those kinds or risks, to jeopardize your career and millions of dollars in studio money to do something you feel passionate about (related: del Toro’s Hellboy II at this point in his career), that you fucking love knowing that you may very well end up face down in a chunky green puddle of your life’s work. You don’t have to like the decision, but it’s hard not to respect it. And if you can’t appreciate Tin Cup for that, or if you think I’m being hyperbolic, it’s only because so many formula films since have followed its template, creating a new groove in the old standard.
Love him or hate him, Costner is pretty goddamn good at what he does: Over-the-hill asshole schlub athlete, a role he’s been playing for better or worse for the last 20 years. Here, Costner plays Roy “Tin Cup” McAvoy, an over-the-hill asshole schlub golf player whose talent on the golf course is outweighed only by his bullheaded ego. He’s a big swinging dick without an ounce of common sense, a guy whose desire for greater glory consistently keeps him from winning. As a result, he’s approaching middle age and stuck running a shitty driving range out of a trailer home, while his arch nemesis, David Simmons (Don Johnson) is racking up wins on the PGA tour. Enter Dr. Molly Griswold (Rene Russo at her leggy finest), a psychologist who calls on Roy for golf lessons. She also happens to be David’s girlfriend.
What follows, for the most part, is exactly what you expect in a sports movie. Molly and Tin Cup develop an attraction, she uses her psychology degree to reign in his ego and his wildness, and Tin Cup makes a run for a PGA title. And what I appreciate about Tin Cup’s director, Ron Shelton (who also directed the other Kevin Costner sports great, Bull Durham), is his determination to stick to the sports-movie formula for 95 percent of the run time, creating an expectation — hell, a yearning — for Tin Cup to pull off a huge victory, show up that prick David Simms, and win the girl. And if you’ve ever seen a sports movie, or even a Kevin Costner film, you know that’s how it has to happen.
But it doesn’t. It throws a wrench at your head, it takes away everything the preceding two hours built up to, and it leaves you crushed, eyes clenched, unable to watch anymore. But in the next five minutes, Tin Cup builds it all back up, and gives you something so much more satisfying than the big win. Screw the money and the fame; give me the goddamn glory.
And if you folks think this is another of Pajiba’s belated April Fool’s gags, first of all, fuck you. I know it’s tantamount to admitting a fondness for, say, The Wallflowers, but I love this movie, and I’m willing to take the inevitable hits. Second, Tin Cup is great only if put in the proper context — it may not belong in the same league as some of our other blockbusters, but amongst reviled sports movies, it’s aces. And third: Watch the last five minutes of Tin Cup and tell me goose bumps don’t erupt on the back of your neck like Vesuvian herpes.
Dustin Rowles is the publisher of Pajiba. He lives with his wife and son in Portland, Maine. Please leave a comment or send an email.
The Best Place in the World to Be Is Between Delusion and Denial
Tin Cup / Dustin Rowles
Pajiba Blockbusters | August 8, 2008 | Comments ()