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Brand, superstar, man — the Beckham between headlines



English (Netflix)

Director: Fisher Stevens

Rating: 3.5/5

There is this intense, plot-turning segment in Beckham where the man revisits his falling-out with former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson.

David Beckham (48, heavily tattooed and in measured, unflappable manner all through) says he “loves” the boss who has also been an influential father figure. The next shot has Sir Alex himself, indicating what it really is — this is professional football with little room for the personal; you pick players for what they do on the pitch.

Fisher Stevens’ gripping four-episode documentary miniseries on one of the most celebrated (and scrutinised) footballers of our time draws on these contradictions.

This is a “stubborn lad” who says he puts his game above everything else but is accused by coaches and club-mates of having been distracted by his celebrity. In the face of toxic fans and relentless media censure, Beckham is fiercely protective of his family. He is also his own man, moving clubs and homes across continents, to the absolute disapproval of wife Victoria, superstar Spice Girl herself.

For a top-draw midfielder with Manchester United and Real Madrid on his CV, Beckham also appears bafflingly casual with his move to a subpar soccer setup in the US. The song placed here is Superstar, a 1971 single by The Temptations – “Superstar, good God, enjoy your champagne and caviar, and your chauffeur drivin’ fancy car, but remember how you got where you are.”

The series is cut around four or five important career-life phases, placed in classical arcs of setback, struggle, and redemption set to triumphant music. Beckham is not quite the tell-all but is, perhaps, the closest we get to a modern-day superstar grappling with fame’s harsh lights. It is thoroughly entertaining as it is probing, and comes with insights and anecdotes from football royalty – Luis Figo, Ronaldo, and Roberto Carlos are in the ensemble but it is Gary Neville who gets the cool lines.

Stevens pieces together a complex, largely reticent man with a terrific sense of drama but also maintains an unaffected appreciation of his subject that keeps things real. You get to see those bending free-kicks but this, really, is about a boy shaping up as man, outside of his club and country colours — how he copes with authority, rejection, love and some hate, and still holds it all together, long enough for a story worth telling.

(Published 07 October 2023, 03:49 IST)

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