[rating=4]Starring: Parminder K. Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Juliet Stevenson
Director(s): Gurinder Chadha
Writer(s): Screenplay by Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra
I have heard Bend It Like Beckham likened to My Big Fat Greek Wedding with soccer, but it’s much more than that. Unlike most sports films, this story isn’t really about a team or a sport. Bend It Like Beckham is about a young girl pursuing her dreams against all odds.
The twist? This film centers around Jess Bharma (Parminder Nagra), an English girl from a traditional Indian family who idolizes David Beckham and wants to play soccer just like him. Jess’ family, however, has other ideas about her future. Her father doesn’t want her to get hurt. Meanwhile, her mother wants her to learn to cook authentic Indian meals as she schools Jess to become a model Indian wife. Jess, however, wants it all!
Bend It Like Beckham is film about being true to yourself. When Jess joins a girl’s soccer team after being urged on by a new English teammate, Jules (Keira Knightly), she is forced to hide it from her disapproving family. Her sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi), helps to keep her secret, because as it turns out, her sister has her own secret meetings with her fiancée. On top of everything, Jess’ close friend also pushes Jess on while his own dreams never quite come out of the closet during the film. This is a film where young girls run around hiding secret loves from their parents, but they aren’t hiding beaus, they’re hiding soccer!
The film focuses on Indian culture in many lights because Jess’ family is an integral part of all the decisions she makes throughout the film. At once, the culture seems stifling, and then during scenes from Pinky’s wedding, beautiful, exotic and encompassing a certain modesty.
The film doesn’t stop there. It has plenty to say about a Western culture, where English girls have to go to America to play soccer because their own country doesn’t have a professional team. Or a culture, where Jules’ mother (Juliet Stevenson) worries that playing sports can lead to lesbianism. The film highlights these serious subjects in powerfully honest and amusing scenes, while remaining diplomatic and allowing the viewers to come to their own decisions.
Yes, this is a sports comedy about girl empowerment, but my boyfriend loved it, too. Bend it Like Beckham promises scenes where a head of lettuce can substitute a soccer ball and daughters will dish out lessons on prejudice: Just because I wear trackies and play sports, doesn’t mean I’m a lesbian!” Anyone who has ever worked off their butts to persevere against adversity and all of adversity’s hard knocks will relate to this film.
The delightfully sweet humor combined with intense action scenes packs a powerful punch and it’s all played to some funky Indian, English and American tunes that include solo tracks by Spice Girls, Victoria Beckham and Melanie C. Bend it Like Beckham will have you gyrating in your seats as the film comes full circle to show everyone that the reality is that no one should find themselves accepting conformity, not when the freedom to do your own thing is something you should be fighting for.
The DVD is home to fun featurettes like, “Who Wants to Cook Aloo Gobi?” where director Gurinder Chadha, with the help of her mother and aunt, explain the delicacies of cooking meat curry. For the most part though, the standard deleted scenes and cast music video are sweet but a totally ignorable snoozefest. Press play and carry on to the film and the laughs.
Run Time: 1 hr., 52 mins.