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Sundries
...a sweatshop of moxie

Saturday, May 13, 2006

"Goal!" The Impossibly Good Soccer Film

[Please note, those who have not seen this film yet: This is a full film review, complete with some spoilers of the film narrative, which could include post-replies which may follow]

Most of you around the world, have already had the opportunity of watching this film, but that is not the case with those of us in America.

"Goal!: The Impossible Dream" (2005) just premiered Friday, 12 May 2006, nationwide in the US, no doubt trying to capitalise on the euphoric anticipation so many of us football fans have, with the World Cup in Germany, less than a month away.



And let me tell you, this film is a must-see for all footy fans, wherever you are.

The thing is, as we all know, football films tend towards the amiably predictable (Bend it Like Beckham -- which, however, I liked), the star-studded (Victory! -- which, however, I liked), or the just plain quirky (Goalie's Anxiety at the Penalty Kick -- which, however, I liked).

As if this were not enough, sadly for us fans, some films on soccer are just plain dire.

This may be due to sport and the cinematic medium not seeming to fit...perhaps because to have an engaging, athletic-based film, you need to have the combined talent of acting and proficiency in the game, else even the pedestrian audience won't buy it.

(Not for nothing is the best film on soccer STILL, years after it's heroes' heydeys are long over, Victory -- the film where you struggle to understand both Pele and Stallone's English, but still revel in the storyline)

The basic premise of this year's attempt at football fantasy is simple:

A young Angelino has a dream -- to escape the daily drudgery of his illegal Mexican-American immigrant life by playing soccer. His father, a stern, hard-working gardener thinks his son has illusions which may end up by crushing him (as his certainly were, his emigration to the land of milk and trockas* notwithstanding).

But fate, which can crush a man's dreams one moment, as easily as it can elevate his spirit the very next time, reprieves him by sending him the gift of a British soccer scout (Stephen Dillane), who believes in the young Chicano lad perhaps more than anyone has, save Santiago's loving, generous gran.

The catch is:

Our young lad has to get himself over to Newcastle, so fate can start to work its personal magic.

Will he? Does he? How, if his father denigrates his son at every turn, forbading him to even try?

Well, of course, he does, else there would be no film. But it's not the journey that matters for a change in this film -- but the goal (pun, very much intended).

In watching this film, which is not brilliant by the standards the year 2005 gave us adult film-goers (Brokeback Mountain, The Squid and the Whale, Paradise Now, Ushpizin, Junebug, The Dying Gaul), but it has a certain sparkle, a glint of something deeper, than even its rather formulaic storyline cannot muck-up.

And I think you'll agree that the reason for this shimmer is the charismatic, and entirely believable performance by Mexico's greatest actress, Maria Felix', great-nephew:

Kuno Becker.



I had never seen him in action before, although I had certainly heard of him, since I'm not a Mexican telenovela aficionada.

Yet whether it's his family acting genes, or his genuine skill with a football, but his persona on-screen absolutely sizzles.

He has that undefinable something called star-presence, much moreso than any previous, recent Spanish-speaking actor (Antonio Banderas, Penelope Cruz, et. al.). This kid is a star Hollywood will just love to eat up, a case of his character's story mimicking his real life.

And perhaps this is fitting, since the anchor this film is tied to, centres around chance.

The chance to prove oneself to one's family, to one's admirer's, even to one's detractors, and even more existentially, to the circumstances which you were born to.

All of us, no matter how privileged, or how blessed, know about being given a chance to succeed. The success is not without -- it's within us all, if only chance would give us that opportunity to shine.

This film will appeal to so many age groups, and kinds of people:

-- It's got a father-son rivalry, led by the stand-out performance of the dad by Cuban-American actor, Tony Plana (who recently played a Joel Grey-emcee-like role in the excellent if unwieldy, The Lost City).



Sometimes our parents are scared for us, because they know life can be maniacally cruel.

But sometimes, and this is especially true of fathers it seems, dads feel that a child's progress somehow throws his life into disrepute -- that it lessens whatever little accomplishment he has had, when the child supercedes him. It's irrational and contradictory, but completely, irretrievably human.

-- It's got the Mexican immigrant angle, so topical at present, as to seem almost contrived to mesh with current events (but this film was shot in 2004, so it's just a happy -- ? -- coincidence).

-- It's got the love angle, but like so many 'boy films' is, however, not overdone: in fact, "Brookside" actress, Anna Friel, plays her secondary role with restraint and genuine charm. She's a Northern lass, not easily bowled over by any flash would-be footballer.

-- It's got the rubbernecking famous footballer angle, since you can fill your footy boots with endless sights of Shearer, Zidane, Raul, Beckham, Fulham, Chelsea, Liverpool and obviously, Newcastle stars we all know and love to see act badly.



And I can think of worse pitches to see, than those loving, endless shots of St. James' Park and Newcastle, proper. (See if you can spot that Chariots of Fire moment at the pier, too).

I think what makes this film work is the excellent supporting roles, filled to perfection by the cast of veteran actors like Romanian actor of note, Marcel Iures (in a majestic performance as the Newcastle United manager), or equally veteran actress from Puerto Rico, Miriam Colon.

I don't think I've EVER seen Colon give a bad performance, though because of her "achinada" looks, she often plays Mexicans, such as the brilliant, self-hating Mexican lady in "Lone Star".

As the grandmother who loves her grandson and saves him from himself, not once, but always, she adds a certain something, which a lesser actress might've just made a parody of the role of the eternal abuelita.

Another interesting performance is given by the Bostonian Alessandro Nivola, whose accent is just like the rest -- forced, at times comically Mrs. Doubtfirish (including the "Geordie" actors...), but there is a definite authenticity in his portrayal of the pampered footballer, whose ego is marginally less charged than his high-powered Mercedeses.

His role of Gavin Harris actually seems like a combination of Paul Gascoigne, Alan Shearer, Andy Cole, and Mido, all rolled into one bundle of heaven-sent narcissicism.

And who amongst us, doesn't love to hate a footballer who thinks he's God's answer to our fields of dreams?

So, "Goal!: The Impossible Dream" is not going to topple Victory! from its top soccer perch, but I'll tell you:



It's a decent film, about a great sport. What else can any football fan ask for?

*** (3 out of 5 stars)

Goal! (US title, 2005/6)
Budget: $30,000,000 (estimated)
Box Office:
Opening Weekend
£857,253 (UK) (2 October 2005) (366 Screens)
€103,674 (Netherlands) (23 October 2005) (58 Screens)
Gross
£1,852,835 (UK) (16 October 2005)
"Goal II" is already in post-production, with "Goal III" set to be filmed in 2007

* "Trocka" seems to mean in Mexican-American parlance, what camión is to the rest of Spanish-speakers: a truck...Who knew?

10 Comments:

  • I'm thinking that $30M budget quoted by IMDB is way off base, or the total for all three films in the planned for trilogy.

    According to boxofficemojo.com, Goal has made $17M so far worldwide, so if they spent $30M to produce the first one alone, I can't believe that the producers would be so quick to finish the trilogy losing that much money on the first one.

    And I think the Mexican version of Spanish has found itself infiltrated by many terms (like your trocka example) that sound like similar words in English that few other Spanish speakers use (carpeta-carpet, tira-tire, batería-battery).

    I think mainly it's a response to kids growing up speaking English and Spanish and mixing up terms, eventually replacements happen and some stick.

    There's even a different Chicano Spanish dictionary, plus a more humorous Spanglish dictionary (which judging from the reviews is more Cubano based)

    In high school and my first few early college years, my girlfriend was Russian, and I heard the same process happening in that language (what little of it I understood, even after 1 year of instruction in college).

    By Blogger XWL, at Sat May 13, 02:22:00 am GMT-4  

  • I'm thinking that $30M budget quoted by IMDB is way off base, or the total for all three films in the planned for trilogy.

    Good observation.

    However, it must NOT have been easy to film on location, at the hallowed grounds portrayed in this film.

    St. James' Park is to Newcastle, what Lambeau Field is to Green Bay, and that was only one stadium of the many shot for this film.

    Also, although I'm sure the ultra-famous footballers portrayed (you shoulda heard the little cheer that went up in the crowd of mostly teenage boys in the audience, when they saw Beckham...not because I'm sure they love him, but because of the recognition/startling factor), didn't take full pay for their appearances, it is not cheap to get Zizou, or Raul, or even a little cameo by Sven-Göran Eriksson!

    This was a quality production, and not the comparative shoe-string budget seen by the winsome "Bend it Like Beckham".

    I loved BILB (I'm a big Keira Knightley fan, since then), but you can tell this film is much more professionally done.

    According to boxofficemojo.com, Goal has made $17M so far worldwide,

    What! Good grief, that's peanuts, as you say.

    I think it's had a limited release, as per IMDB, in such countries as Holland, Switzerland, and Sweden.

    Wait 'til this opens in Brazil and the rest of the world.

    And it's good enough to get good word-of-mouth. For my late 9 o'clock showing, the theatre was very well-filled.

    And Miami is just not a soccer town (Romario's Miami FC goal heroics tonight, notwithstanding!!).

    I hope Robert, JSU and other soccer nuts will comment about this here.

    so if they spent $30M to produce the first one alone, I can't believe that the producers would be so quick to finish the trilogy losing that much money on the first one.

    True.

    And I think the Mexican version of Spanish has found itself infiltrated by many terms (like your trocka example) that sound like similar words in English that few other Spanish speakers use (carpeta-carpet, tira-tire, batería-battery).

    Well, in each of those instances, those are words used by almost all Spanish-speakers, much like we in English mangled foreign-words to use as our own, with a twist (voila - wallah, e.g.).

    Although, it's true that I've never heard "tira" for tire (what my old headmistress insisted we spell as "tyre", BTW. "Tire" was an odious Americanism, according to her ilk).

    Bateria = battery, is like computer, though.

    It's one of those words which translate very well in other languages (computadora, etc. -- although the French do use "ordinateur"...).

    I think mainly it's a response to kids growing up speaking English and Spanish and mixing up terms, eventually replacements happen and some stick.

    Oh absolutely!

    There's even a different Chicano Spanish dictionary, plus a more humorous Spanglish dictionary (which judging from the reviews is more Cubano based)

    I have been searching for that! Thanks, XWL. :)

    In high school and my first few early college years, my girlfriend was Russian, and I heard the same process happening in that language (what little of it I understood, even after 1 year of instruction in college).

    All languages have an incursion towards English, as you can imagine. The French, especially, hate it -- "parking" etc.

    But your point, of course, is when foreigners appropriate words or mix them up with their own languages, here in the US (or in other English-speaking countries).

    As you noted, the Cubans have a funny Spanglish slang, and it is actually the blogpost I've been planning to do for a while.

    It's just that I have to space my Cuban-American blogposts a bit, like the soccer ones, or the film ones, to give you guys a breather. :)

    I will get to it! And unlike many another jeva out there, I won't cheatear.

    It's all original.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sat May 13, 03:05:00 am GMT-4  

  • Paradise Now is for adults?

    By Blogger JSU, at Sat May 13, 04:07:00 am GMT-4  

  • Victoria,

    Per your link, and Roger Ebert, the name of the movie appears to be "Goal! The Dream Begins."

    By Blogger Pete, at Sat May 13, 07:29:00 am GMT-4  

  • But this is funny.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sat May 13, 05:48:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Paradise Now is for adults?

    Heh. I get your innuendo, but still -- it's not Porky's, okay. :)

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun May 14, 03:35:00 am GMT-4  

  • Victoria,

    Per your link, and Roger Ebert, the name of the movie appears to be "Goal! The Dream Begins."


    Yeah, Pete, not sure why they changed the movie title at the last minute, since I've seen posters advertising this film around SoFla, with "Goal! The Impossible Dream", as the title.

    But "The Dream Begins" makes sense, since Goal II, and Goal III are green-lit already.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun May 14, 03:37:00 am GMT-4  

  • But this is funny.

    Teehee.

    I especially liked this reply, to someone who suggested that how come Santiago didn't stay in the US, and play for an MLS team?

    (Uh, because he's here illegally, and can't get a green card?...although that is solved easily, if he's really that good, by the scouts claiming they picked him up in Mexico -- which is actually what happens for the story's purposes in England)

    "Wrong interpretation of the movie, the kid simply isn't good enough for MLS so they ship him off to that lesser league in England"

    Quite. ;)

    P.S.: I didn't like the guy who suggested that Santiago chose to play for Mexico instead of the US.

    Hello, that wasn't the case, and his lack of seeing this film, was enough to discount his other opinions too.

    Those of us who make statements (such as I did about United 93) without having seen or read something, often end up with egg on their face.

    For the record, Santiago was at pains to make it known he was from LA. He considered himself more American, than Mexican.

    And I liked that.

    Cheers,
    Victoria

    By Blogger vbspurs, at Sun May 14, 03:41:00 am GMT-4  

  • "P.S.: I didn't like the guy who suggested that Santiago chose to play for Mexico instead of the US."

    Well, as the thread later notes, he actually ends up playing for *Argentina* because, well, both Mexico and the US are with swoosh...

    Pretty ridiculous.

    By Blogger JSU, at Sun May 14, 01:03:00 pm GMT-4  

  • Sorry guys,
    Santiago will play for Mexico
    And I liked that
    Danny

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at Tue Jun 13, 07:16:00 pm GMT-4  

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