The Legend of Bagger Vance

RORY: I got home at ten and you were already asleep.

LORELAI: Well, I was trying to watch The Legend of Bagger Vance again.

The Legend of Bagger Vance, 2000 sports film directed by Robert Redford, based on the 1995 novel of the same name by Steven Pressfield. The plot is loosely based on an episode in the Bhagavad Gita, where the god Krishna helps a warrior find his path as the hero he was meant to be.

Set in 1931 Georgia, it is a film about golf starring Matt Damon as Rannulph Junuh, a noted golfer from a wealthy family who was a decorated captain in World War I, but became a broken-down alcoholic due to the trauma of seeing his entire company wiped out. Will Smith plays Bagger Vance, a mysterious traveller who becomes Junuh’s caddie in an important tournament, giving him advice that helps him during the game. He disappears as mysteriously as he arrived, then makes an even more mysterious appearance at the end of the film.

The Legend of Bagger Vance was a box office bomb, making back only half its budget, and received mixed to poor reviews. One of the main criticisms was how slow and boring the film is, explaining Lorelai’s inability to stay awake watching it. It was also heavily criticised for employing the “Magical Negro” trope, where a black person with vaguely mystical powers comes to the aid of white protagonists for no clear reason (the god Krishna is often depicted with black skin, so this part is taken straight from the source material). The racism of the American South in the 1930s is completely glossed over in the film.

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