Monday, May 15, 2006

"Goal!": the total film experience

(First, an apology: I saw this film opening night, but by the time I rose next morning the Great West Ham Sorrow had occurred while I slept, and writing about film suddenly seemed indecent, disrespectful, even absurd. So here's the review, tempered by some days' lapse.)

Here's the bad news: Having grown up in the era of Neil Simon, I've been privy to some sentimental hogwash in my time, but this sapfest out-maudlins the lot. It follows by careful rote the most basic heartstring-tugger formula: a succession of melodramatic crises, each capped by folksy life-lesson wisdom, each mounting in crescendo to the climactic game. It has nothing to do with real life. (As somebody said, "You know it's a fantasy when Newcastle United looks pretty.") You, or your grandma, whoever, could tell me the story of this film, scene by scene, even if you never saw a single preview. There are literally no surprises in it. The only plot-points you'd miss might be the ones that seem too far-fetched to speak aloud.

That said, I both laughed and cried. More than once from the corner of my eye I saw arms shoot into the air in the universal victory gesture when ball met net onscreen. The joy and angst of the fans was well and lovingly captured. I look at it this way: after watching a string of football films ("the Firm", "Football Factory", "Fever Pitch", etc) that left me saying, "All right, but where's the football?", I figure the bad parts of "Goal!" are the trade-off for getting to watch real footballers play real football, and have a blast doing it. Everyone's having a good time in this film. And don't let anyone tell you it's badly acted. No movie with the likes of Stephen Dillane and Sean Pertwee can be called badly acted. It's a melodrama; that requires, shall we say, an exaggerated style. Anyway, you'll have fun. You will.

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