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Movie Review by Lola Knipe

Starring: Ian Bannen, John Lynch, Patsy Kensit
Director: Mary McGuckian

I settled down to watch BEST full of mild excitement. I?d read all of the rubric in the preview pack and saw George Best himself down as script consultant. If the man whose life it is about has validated it, it must be good I mused.

The film began with present-day George featuring as one of the guests on a chat-show, and as he recalled moments from his past, the action of the film shifted to recreate those moments, using a mixture of drama and genuine film footage of ?Bestie? working his magic on the pitch. It leapt through huge chunks of George?s life and his demise, leaving you with a sense of detail but little substance. I was bored within the first half hour, and failed to suspend my belief when the same actor who played middle-aged George, also attempted to depict him as a teenager by sweeping his hair into a Beatles flick.

Some of the best bio-pics I?ve seen have managed to carry off as wide a trajectory as the length of a man?s life, but they have always used one relationship as the lynch-pin, such as the father-son relationship in ?Shine?. This film has no such back-bone, it races through George?s life, providing brief, superficial snap-shots of his development. It attempts to develop the relationship between George and his manager, Sir Matt Busby (Ian Bannen). Sir Matt is fiercely loyal to George, continuing to play him even when he should be reprimanding him. But again – unsubstantial glimpses of this coach-player interaction mean that you don?t care enough about this relationship for it to have any real emotional weight. What should have been a passionate, soulful portrait of one of this nation?s most flamboyant and talented footballer, ended up as a lumbering docu-drama that left me cold. These are harsh words, but I believe that by choosing to direct a film about a footballer of George Best?s calibre, Mary McGuikan was aware of the stakes.

Nepotism also works against her. Mary McGuikan has chosen to cast her husband, John Lynch in the leading role. It may be vanity on both their parts that John attempts to depict 30 years of George?s life, I?ve heard of actors having a wide ?playing range? but this beggars belief. This simple oversight on both their parts obstructs enjoyment of the film. Lynch is a mature figure, full of gravitas and sobriety – a far cry from the reckless, young George who he attempts to depict during the first half of the film. Lynch?s demeanour also makes his pairing with glamorous girlfriend, Anna, (played by Patsy Kensit), extremely unlikely.

Even George?s team members – Bobby Charlton (Jerome Flynn), Nobby Stiles (Ian Hart) and Paddy Crerand (Cal Macanich) also fall down in the plausibility stakes. This is not because their performances lack credibility – Jerome Flynn is in fact particularly strong – but because they are middle-aged men playing young men, and there is only so much the make-up department can take care of.

All in all I think Mary McGuigan?s film is an over-ambitious project which falls down because it tries to do too much in too short a space of time – by trying to show the whole of George?s life to date, and getting actors to play men half their age – she leaves us unconvinced and uninterested.

1 out of 6 stars