Bend It Like Beckham Review
It’s a bit presumptuous to start a review with the words, I love this movie! But I can’t imagine starting it any other way. I love all things British. I generally prefer British television and British comedy.
Bend it like Beckham is a prime example of how the British do film right. Bend it like Beckham is an inspiring teenage coming of age comedy about heritage, culture and fighting for your dreams using football – or soccer – as the metaphor.
David Beckham, an English footballer, is famous for his ability to score free kicks by curling a football past a wall of defenders. This skill is one our protagonist hope’s to emulate. Gurinder Chadha, the queen of films that mix culture and comedy, wrote and directed this inspiring film about never giving up on the future you envision for yourself.
No One Can Cross A Ball Or Bend It Like Beckham
Jesminder ‘Jess’ Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is the daughter of a traditional Sikh family. Jess is not like other girls her age – she has no interest in fashion, boys or much to her mother’s chagrin, cooking a traditional Indian meal. Instead, she prefers playing soccer at the local park with her best friend Tony (Ameet Chana). While her parents don’t approve of her hobby, they generally turn a blind eye. Things become complicated, however, when Juliette (Keira Knightley), spots Jess playing and asks her to join her all-female football team. Jess is thrilled by the opportunity to play for a club and has to employ creative ways to keep her secret from her parents.
What family would want a daughter-in-law who can run around kicking football all day but can’t make round chapatis?
Despite help from her sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi), Jess is constantly caught trying to play the game she loves. Amidst mounting pressure from her family, she must choose between her passion for the sport or the path her family expects her to choose.
Complicating matters is her growing attraction to her coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). While her parents dislike her playing soccer, the idea of dating an Englishman is equally distressing. Eventually, the opportunity of a lifetime presents itself and Jess is forced to choose between the chance to fulfill her dream of playing professionally, or honouring her family’s wishes and taking the path of least resistance.
I Didn’t Ask To Be Good At Football
Bend it like Beckham is filled with young actors who’ve since become celebrated British talent. Parminder Nagra is feisty and determined as Jess, balking at the traditional and seeing the world for its endless possibilities. Jess is a beacon of hope for any young woman from a conservative family who wants to pursue a non-traditional path. In many ways, the film is simply about wanting something different and having the courage to fight for it. Parminder is equal parts plucky, earnest and inspiring in her heartfelt determination to one day ‘bend a ball like Beckham’.
Beside her is a fresh-faced Keira Knightley. In a supporting role, Keira (as Juliette) is as enthusiastic and effervescent as her co-star. Sharing Jess’s dreams of a professional football career, the girls share a lot in common, despite their very different backgrounds. While Juliette’s family generally supports her love of sport, Jess has none of the same encouragement. Despite that, however, they immediately develop a strong bond, shaken unfortunately only when Jess makes the moves on Joe, whom Juliette also has a crush on.
That was so brilliant the way you came to my house. You were brave enough to face my mum!
Jonathan Rhys Meyers is crazy fun as Joe, Jess and Juliette’s Irish coach. He’s also funny and intuitive, sensitive and responsible. So many wonderful adjectives, all of them deserved. I’m a huge fan of JRM and I’m always excited to see him play the lighter side. In Bend it like Beckham he is coach first, love interest second. It’s also refreshing to see characters who all respect different cultures and the demands that come with large, loving families. I love when instead of berating Jess for her family’s inability to understand how much football means to her, he instead offers her the assurance that it’s a gift to have family who cares enough to want to be involved in her life. It’s something he doesn’t have, being partly estranged from his own family.
If I Can’t Tell You What I Want Now, Then I’ll Never Be Happy, Whatever I Do
Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan also deserve praise for their roles as Jess’s parents. While Shaheen plays the comedy, Anupam shoulders the responsibility to try to understand his daughter’s ambitions, wanting her to be happy, while still operating within the family’s cultural mores. In addition, Mr. Bhamra’s experience of prejudice has made him less likely to expose his daughter to the same ridicule. For that reason, his hesitation to let Jess play soccer is about more than just being inappropriate.
Juliet Stevenson and Archie Panjabi round out the cast as Juliette’s mother and Jess’s sister respectively.
Beckham’s The Best
Bend it like Beckham works because the cultural comedy is treated thoughtfully. Yes, we are able to poke fun and laugh at the anachronisms, but it’s never at the expense of those who live within it. Jess too, despite her dreams, has a deep respect and understanding for her parents and her cultural values. I respect this filmmaking choice, as many films tend to want to vilify heritage or religious beliefs. The romance is also handled sensitively and with common sense! A novel concept in film sometimes, especially where cultural divides need to be breached.
Look, I can’t let you go without knowing…. that even with the distance and the concerns of your family, we might still have something? Don’t you think?
This film has a wide audience appeal. It’s not perfectly original, but it’s colourful and earnest in the telling. Along the way, the film also delivers good drama, romance, and barrels of laughter.
Where to Watch: Bend it like Beckham is available for sale or to watch on Amazon.
Content Note: Bend it like Beckham is rated PG-13 for language and sexual content.
Have you watched Bend it like Beckham? What did you think? Comment below and let me know!
Photo Credit: Kintop Pictures, British Sky Broadcasting, Roc Media
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