Bend there done that
Pleasant but trite, "Bend It Like Beckham" has the calculated charm of all those other likeable-individual-defies-the-odds movies before it.
By DAVID N. BUTTERWORTH
I'll be the first to admit I didn't give "Bend it Like Beckham" much of
a chance going in. I'd seen the preview several times and, even though the
film has garnered raves at Sundance and in England (where just about every film
about a likeable individual defying the odds/breaking the mould a la "Billy Elliot"
is heralded The Feel Good Movie of the Year), it looked slight, corny, and hopelessly
"Bend it Like Beckham" is, sad to say, all of these things and more, but
before I worry its weaker points let me mention a couple of its strengths.
Parminder K. Nagra, in the lead role of Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra, the rebellious
daughter of a very strict family of Indian immigrants living in Hounslow, West
London, is most appealing. In fact, with one or two exceptions, all of the actors
are delightfully credible. And the traditional Sikh lifestyle even the one
played out here under Heathrow's busy flight path is richly crafted and elegantly
detailed. Ah, but the performers get saddled with some incredibly lame material
as the film tries too hard to be uplifting.
|BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM|
|Directed by: Gurinder Chadha.|
Written by: Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda BurgesMayeda Burges.
Cast: Keira Knightley, Parminder Nagra, Jonathan Rhys Meyers,
Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi.
In English, Hindi and Punjabi with English subtitles.
Related links: Official site | All of David N. Butterworth's reviews at Rotten Tomatoes
Story-wise, here's the drill. Eighteen-year-old Jess loves to play football (soccer
to we heathens). Just for fun, in the park, with the lads. She's good, very
good, and definitely better than the lads, but even though her bedroom wall
is adorned with posters of her idol, Manchester United star and England captain
David Beckham (aka Mr. Posh Spice), whose specialty is to bend a 25-yard free
kick around a human wall into the top corner of the net (hence the film's title),
Jess's parents do not want her to play football.|
Her mother wants her to cook
Indian delicacies like Aloo Gobi, marry a nice Indian boy like her sister Pinky
is doing, and settle down. Her father agrees with her mother. But then Juliette
"Jules" Paxton, a spunky tomboy who plays for the Hounslow Harriers, a local
girls football team, spots Jess's skills in the park one day and suggests Jess
try out for the team. Now Jess has to juggle more than just the ball if she's
going to get a crack at pursuing her England dream.
There isn't a professional women's football league in the UK of course,
but there is a professional women's soccer league in the USA, and Joe (Jonathan
Rhys-Meyers), the Harriers' soft-eyed, tough-as-nails Irish coach, promises his
girls there'll be an American scout at the final in Germany checking them out.|
Along the way, "Bend it Like Beckham" (directed and co-written, with Paul
Mayeda Berges and Guljit Bindra, by Gurinder Chadha) serves up clichˇ after
veritable clichˇ of predictable situations.
Everyone in the film is extremely
likable, though, and it's hard to trash a film that has its heart in the right
place, but the humor is forced and obvious and there are very few surprises
to be had. Even the soccer scenes themselves are not terribly thrilling. The
practices and the games are slickly edited, as the girls first work out, then
step it up for the big game, but it looks more like a Nike commercial couldn't
we have seen more of the real actors scoring goals?
There's a romantic "subplot" that's thin and cloying and embarrassing with references
to gays/lesbians, and all the while Mrs. Bhamra (Shaheen Khan) throws up her
hands in despair wondering how her daughter could bring such disgrace on her
family. "Bend it Like Beckham" is hardly disgraceful, but it left this hardened
British football fan with a feeling of being well and truly offside.
|APRIL 8, 2003|
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Reader comments on Bend It Like Beckham:
Exellent from rebecca ridley, Jun 23, 2003
Great! from Mona, Aug 27, 2003
Great from Marisa, Nov 18, 2003
Jonathon from Claire and Mina, Nov 24, 2004
wicked from libby, Nov 25, 2004
Awsome from Claire, Dec 14, 2004
Saw it from Daremz, Jan 4, 2005
hey from ashley, Apr 25, 2005
LOVED IT! from sonia><br> E-mail, May 19, 2005
wicked from erin, Dec 24, 2005
gr8 from aks, Sep 19, 2006
honey from patrick, Jun 19, 2007
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