The rags-versus-riches nature of the country club setting is well-mined in comedy. Caddyshack, obviously, but the seventh-season Simpsons episode “Scenes from the Class Struggle in Springfield” always pops into my mind, too. Stories about the wealthy members and the low-paid staff that allow them to live an opulent, exclusive fantasy of experiencing wealth the way they’d always imagined it, surrounded by people living on the same page. There’s plenty of silliness to be drawn from the habits of the haves versus the have-nots beneath the ostentatious trappings of social status, and although it starts with promise, The Country Club gets a little lost in broad humor and toilet jokes.
Butterbrick Country Club is an elite club in need of attention, and President Victor Simmons (James Urbaniak, always a welcome surprise) has a plan: a youth golf tournament, inviting the best kids from other clubs to take a shot at a $50,000 prize. Unbeknownst to him, an invitation to the illustrious Cartwright family ends up in the hands of the wrong Cartwrights, Elsa (Sophia Robert) and Tina (Fiona Robert). It just so happens that Elsa is a stellar golfer looking for a way to use her skills on the links, and their poor family could do with some fast cash, too. Tina isn’t as strong an athlete, but she has dreams of designing clothing and maybe meeting a good guy. They head down to Butterbrick to seize the opportunities, whatever they may be.
The Robert sisters also wrote the film, with Fiona credited as director, and their material is the strongest in the film. Any country club story is anchored by the “poor” or “normal” characters who witness the insanity behind locked gates, and the two of them are sympathetic, funny and, most importantly, motivated by relatable concerns that make their struggles among the rich worthwhile. The issue with The Country Club is that their one-percent counterparts just never connect in quite the same way. Particularly frustrating is the character of Roger (John Higgins), whose slapstick comedy is taken too far in the wrong direction. Frankly, he’s annoying, and the coming-out / domineering-mother elements of his story never feel foregrounded enough to give the audience any reason to root for him amid his obnoxious behavior. Roger gets old, and fast, and The Country Club just spends too much time with him.
Still, the third act manages to bring it all around to focus properly on Elsa and Tina, who are likable and hit the beats you hope for when the story becomes about their poor background coming to light across the club at the most inconvenient time. Due to the second act, it’s hard to say The Country Club works as a whole, but the bright spots display a lot of potential for the Robert sisters to continue to hone their craft as they develop future projects.