Should viewers accept a film that focuses on the good side of one of England’s most talented players, who is also a wife-beater, an alcoholic, and a cocaine-addict? Apparently, some reviewers could not, assessing this Paul Gascoigne documentary as the ultimate vanity project (The Telegraph) and ignoring the elephants in the room (Timeout).
But if you can set those elephants aside, Writer-Director Jane Preston presents a well-tailored, clear-headed Gascoigne who describes his early life and career. There is also tragedy as he tells how, as a 10 year old, his teammate’s family was his footballing family. Leaving their younger son in Gascoigne’s care, the 7 year old was hit by a car and died in Gascoigne’s arms.
Gascoigne (known as Gazza) has been a media darling for 30 years, but most of the darling part has focused on his many problems. As he noted in a 2011 interview:
“You’ve got to understand the press are never going to write Paul Gascoigne looks well. They want to sell papers.”– Paul Gascoigne, The Guardian, Oct-7-2011
Gazza admits to various failings and addictions, and seems to blame a lot of his craziness on his cell phone being hacked. Even family is difficult to trust, as they sell stories for cash.
There is plenty of game footage and personal stories to convince you of Gazza’s talent and personality on and off the pitch. He explains the infamous photo of Vinnie Jones grabbing Gazza’s nuts in his first season for his hometown Newcastle (Vinnie kept calling him Fat Boy).
He explains how he sent Alex Ferguson off on vacation with a promise to join ManU, then reneged when Tottenham offered his parents a house, a car, and a tanning bed for his sister.
He explains his tears after receiving a yellow card at Italia 90, and declining to take a PK in the shoot-out.
Throughout the film there are comments from José Mourinho (who was assistant manager with Bobby Robson’s England team at WC 1990), Gary Lineker (Tottenham and England teammate), and Wayne Rooney (who deems Gazza the most exciting England player ever).
If you want to know all the things that have gone wrong with Paul Gascoigne, just read his wikipedia page. While I don’t like biographical documentaries that whitewash a player, this film gives an unusual angle in showing Gascoigne’s love of life, never thinking very far ahead, just reacting, and taking each event as it comes. In a sense, the film can be a cautionary tale without needing to show the depths to which celebrities can fall.
To be honest, I had the hardest time watching the game footage because Gascoigne’s shorts are ridiculously short. Also, the film’s ultra close-ups in interviews are almost unnerving — as if to shout, this is so true! Can you doubt us when we film this close? Otherwise, Gascoigne is an easy way to see the good side of a troubled man.
7 Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 7