Die-hard football fans weep salty tears into their Bovril as they blame satellite dishes for turning "the beautiful game" into an overpriced corporate spectacle. TV has evicted sport from its proper home, they complain. Ironically enough, Best almost suffered a similar fate. A biopic of footballer George Best, the film was destined for broadcast on Sky Premier until its producers won an injunction and assured Best a 'proper' cinema release. Unfortunately, the big screen exposes every shortcoming.
It's not the performances that are at fault, although certain bizarre casting call-ups raise questions about director Mary McGuckian's tactics. On a positive note, the late Ian Bannen is a caring and charismatic Matt Busby, David Hayman a fearsome Tommy Docherty, and Linus Roache simply is Denis Law. However, Sophie Dahl, Sara Stockbridge and Patsy Kensit's trio of predatory women are tissue-thin stereotypes, while Jerome Flynn (of Robson and Jerome 'fame') looks ridiculous with Bobby Charlton's bald bonce and doesn't get a grip on the antagonism between his old-fashioned character and pop icon Best.
In the title role, John Lynch avoids accusations of nepotism (he's the director's husband and the film's co-writer/executive producer) with a convincing depiction of Best's slide into alcoholism. He has his subject's physical mannerisms locked down, and his pained face conveys the footballer's inability to express his inner torment.
The problem is that McGuckian can't tell a coherent story with any conviction. As the film progresses, we lose sense of what year we're in. Her overuse of the camera as the footballer's points-of-view seems like a desperate attempt to push us into sharing Best's dilemmas and the cuts between original match footage and actors running about are embarrassingly obvious. Get films into the cinema by all means, but try not to score own goals.
After a promising opening period, tedium sets in before the final whistle, despite a fresh pair of cameo legs jumping up from the subs' bench every five minutes. A couple of flashy solo runs get the crowd cheering, but the management's tactics are suspect.
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