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The Legend of Bagger Vance

Director: Robert Redford
Starring: Will Smith, Matt Damon,
et al.
Length: 127 minutes
Rated: PG-13
Studio: UMVD/Dreamworks
Note: In theaters now

If ever there was a movie that the critics just didn’t “get” – it’s this one. This movie about authenticity, spirituality, trusting what you can’t see, and living life in an engaged, but non-ego oriented way, is a must for coaches and coachees alike.

Bagger Vance (Will Smith) is a mysterious caddie who appears out of nowhere when Rannulph Junuh (Matt Damon) is practicing his golf swing to the light of lanterns late one night. Junuh is Savannah’s former golden boy, a golfer who went off to war but came back with his spirit torn, and who is coaxed by his former lover, Adele (Charlize Theron), to play in a tournament aimed at making enough money to save her late father’s golf course. The tournament also saves Junuh. Junuh is caught in his story of believing he can no longer golf, and he has, in effect, given up on life. Bagger appears on the scene to remind Junuh that even though he has lost his “authentic swing,” with attention and practice, he can relocate his personal power. "Inside each and every one of us is our one true authentic swing. Something we was born with. Something that's ours and ours alone. Something that can't be learned. . . . Something that's got to be remembered."

Bagger is, in many ways, the consummate coach. Junuh, likewise, is the archetypal client, on a journey. Bagger, with his wise interventions, helps Junuh find the deep place inside where his ego is quiet and where he can “be” with himself and his grief, and where he can be one with himself and the game of golf.  This internal transformational drama is played out on the golf course and with the various other characters that help Junuh’s transformation along. Golf as metaphor for life works.

Bagger challenges, cajoles, makes astute observations (“The trouble with Junuh is that he thinks he’s Junuh”), knows when to persist and when to let up, and teaches Junuh the art of befriending oneself. Once Junuh seems to have rediscovered his authenticity, Bagger disappears as mysteriously as he arrived. The viewer is left wondering just who Bagger is – some think he’s an angel, some think he’s a higher power, some think he’s a representation of Junuh’s best, authentic self. And the viewer gets clear, even if for a moment, that life, like golf, is “not a game to be won, it’s a game to be played.” Sit back and enjoy this precious, spiritual movie.

Click here for a coaching practice related to the theme of this movie.





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