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The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Criticism: ‘Beckham’

Arts+Criticism+Contributor+Cameron+Johnson+says+Netflix%26%238217%3Bs+%26%238220%3BBeckham%26%238221%3B+is+worth+the+watch%2C+but+the+Spice+Girls+are+cooler.
Poster via IMDb

Arts Criticism Contributor Cameron Johnson says Netflix’s “Beckham” is worth the watch, but the Spice Girls are cooler.

The story of “Golden Balls” — bare, revealed and ready to grace the world. 

“Beckham” tells the story of football star David Beckham, known for his decades-long career in English and European football. Now retired, Beckham owns his own football club, Inter Miami CF, and co-owns Salford City Football Club.

No other source can entertain like this docuseries. Four episodes, each an hour long, provide ample time to study the 47 years of the player’s life, requiring no interest in football to follow along.

Episode one summarizes Beckham’s start with Manchester United F.C., a football club from England. Beginning with his first game with the club in 1995 at age 17, most of his adolescence is covered in episode two — including the aftermath of the infamous 1998 red card. 

In 1998, England faced Argentina during the Round of 16 in the FIFA World Cup tournament. During a 2-2 tie, Argentina’s Diego Simeone intentionally barreled over Beckham, sending him face-first into the pitch. In response, Beckham kicked at Simeone’s backside, which led to a red card and dismissal from the game.

Beckham’s absence is considered the reason England lost a shot at the World Cup. Scorn from Beckham’s own fans is compared directly to his father, Ted Beckham, and his unrelenting approach to training. The second episode blends taunts from English fans with Ted’s shouts during childhood games while Beckham plays on the field, leading to the best sequence of the series. Anyone who’s wanted to impress a parent or role model can relate to the pressure of a loud mentor, and this montage delivers on that anxiety effectively. 

A commonly-used, yet curious, shot choice is the extreme close-up of interviewee faces, double-exposed over game footage. The shallow depth of field and intense focus on their eyes helps connect the viewer to interviewees. It does, however, mean a giant face of David Beckham will sometimes stare at you wistfully. 

The docuseries’ primary issue shows up early: the director’s presence. Though he’s rarely seen, director Fisher Stevens’ voice is frequently heard. In the first scene of episode one, Stevens can be heard off camera asking questions and cracking jokes as Beckham extracts honey from his beehives. His involvement may seem harmless at first, but indicates problems with his objectivity in later episodes.

Stevens’ casual attitude seems to be a response to earlier press coverage. Interviews with paparazzi, journalists and sports historians coupled with clips from news broadcasts throughout Beckham’s career shows the fervor with which the footballer’s life has been covered. Rather than chase Beckham with a telephoto lens, Stevens prefers to chat over morning coffee.

The series conveniently omits one important aspect in the couple’s relationship: David’s possible affair in Spain. Originally reported by the UK’s News of the World on April 4, 2004, Beckham allegedly cheated on his wife, Victoria Beckham, with former assistant Rebecca Loos, according to Insider. The assumed affair is never questioned, only the resulting headlines. Neither David nor Victoria clarifies the allegation. Rebecca Loos’ name is never mentioned.

It’s crass to mention, but it’s a notable loose thread. Omitting the question was likely a calculated decision to maintain access to the Beckhams, but demonstrates a loosey-goosey approach to interviewing. The intrigue of the affair is used to bridge episodes three and four. When used for dramatic tension like that, it pays to at least ask, “Who was Rebecca Loos?”  

Some of the best storytelling comes from Posh Spice herself. Hearing Victoria speak frankly about her frustrations with David’s career is a critical inclusion to the docuseries. Victoria’s singing career is emphasized early, but recedes in later episodes to focus on her role as a wife and mother. She also christened Beckham “Golden Balls,” which is hopefully engraved inside his wedding ring. Though the documentary focuses on Beckham’s career, there are moments where a Spice Girls documentary seems much more intriguing. 

All-in-all, “Beckham” delivers a story about one of the most recognizable people alive and acts as a complete education of the man from start to present. I care as little about his life as I did before, yet here I am, a voluntary guest contributor, writing about him for giggles.

The documentary is one of several Netflix offerings with similar creative choices, but benefits greatly from its subject matter and the intimacy of its interviews. It would be an 8/10, but the director got too chummy. It’s worth a watch, but I’m serious about that Spice Girls series.

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