Life & Culture

Beckham review: Kick-about with Becks? Nah

His prowess as a sporting god is on full display, but sadly David Beckham's cool arrogance as a person peeps through in this revealing doc


Netflix | ★★★✩✩

I’ve always felt a bit antagonistic about football and its surrounding bumf, but have at the same time had a bit of soft spot for David Beckham as a person.

His longevity in popular culture? The unfairness of the frenzied public response to that World Cup foul? His pride in his Jewish heritage? Or just because he’s so darn handsome?

But having now seen all four episodes of Beckham, I’ve had a bit of a switcheroo. Director Fisher Stevens does his best, and from photos of the former footballer’s father buying him a Man United kit on his birthdays to footage of his childhood matches, he has certainly been handed good material.

There are also clips from what now feel rather poignant documentaries about the Spice Girls and Stevens also had access to all the key figures in Beckham’s life: family, friends, managers and players.

The stars, though, are the Beckhams themselves and each episode is framed around brief vignettes of their present lives.

This serves to humanise the couple who, even with their fame and wealth, still needle and tease each other like any other husband and wife. Stevens, fresh from his recent stint on Succession, is I’m sure all too aware of the need to capture life beyond the paparazzi lens, having been Michelle Pfeiffer’s long-term partner in the 1990s.

His position in the gods also means he gets to prod David, and with not inconsiderable incredulity, about his fastidious cleaning and organising.
Put bluntly, he has OCD. Is this Stevens’ way of giving him a flaw, of exposing a chink in Beckham’s carefully polished armour? I think so because it stands in direct contrast to the otherwise carefully controlled interviews.

There’s been a lot of coverage in the press on how the alleged infidelity was dealt with in the programme, much talk of how tough the period was for the couple. I think the way the football was covered is more interesting. It is when Beckham is being his least guarded, that I’m the least sure about him.

Looking at interviewees’ faces close up as they watch pivotal moments, seeing the emotion they elicit years after the events, gives me an appreciation for what the sport means to people.

But all the qualities that Beckham exhibits on the pitch — his assuredness, control, confidence, strength and determination — present as arrogant and cold when he is sitting on a sofa and being interviewed.

I finished the series with an appreciation of his achievements, his resilience and talent. I’m just not sure he’s a guy with whom you’d want a kick-about.

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