dir Mary McGuckian
scr John Lynch, Mary McGuckian
with John Lynch, Ian Bannen, Patsy Kensit, Linus Roache, Ian Hart, Jerome Flynn, Adrian Lester, Roger Daltrey, David Hayman, Cal Macaninch, Stephen Fry, Clive Anderson, Sophie Dahl
Sky 00/UK 1 out of 5 stars

Review by Rich Cline
A film bio of Irish soccer legend George Best ought to be good value--he was one of the world's first football gods, a genius on the pitch who sabotaged his career with drinking, womanising, gambling and general bad boy behaviour. And yet the filmmakers behind Best can't seem to come up with any real insight.

We first meet Best (Lynch) as a chat show regular reminiscing about the good (and bad) old days when he was a European star. Then we flash back to his discovery as a teen, the early days at Manchester United, his emerging celebrity and then his rollercoaster career. He takes along with him the team boss (Bannen), a girlfriend (Kensit) and fellow players (including Roach, Hart and Flynn, as Bobby Charlton).

The fractured narrative skips quickly through time at irregular intervals, rarely spending long in any given place. The result is a series of interesting scenes that barely work on their own and never come together as a whole story. The timid script also refuses to get under the skin or behind the scenes, like it was assembled from public record with a few private sequences pieced together from movie cliches. There's lots of talk about Best's antics, but frankly we never see much more than drinking and moping. It tries hard to portray him as a tortured genius, when he comes across as little more than a selfish jerk. (Another clue that the film is a tad too reverential: his actual wedding video runs through the closing credits!) Despite the lovely cinematography, McGuckian's weak TV-movie-style direction avoids originality and rarely allows the actors to do anything remotely gritty or interesting. In the end you do feel some sympathy for this broken man ... but that's due to a nice bit of acting by Lynch, not because of the superficial tour through George Best's vices and victories.

[15--strong language, themes] 3.May.00
UK release 12.May.00

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2000 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall