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    Bend It Like Beckham

    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.


    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 predictable.

    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
    "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  
    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.

      Bend It Like Beckham
    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

    Reader comments on Bend It Like Beckham:

  • Exellent   from rebecca ridley, Jun 23, 2003
  • I've never seen a better movie   from Nandini Chauhan, Jun 29, 2003
  • Re: Exellent   from Tracy Flores, Dec 2, 2003
  • Re: Exellent   from Lorena Bocanegra, May 10, 2004
  • Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is HOTT!!!   from Tracy Flores, Dec 3, 2003
  • Re: Jonathan Rhys-Meyers is HOTT!!!   from cheryl, Mar 2, 2005
  • Clever vehicle   from Sylvie, Aug 20, 2003
  • Great!   from Mona, Aug 27, 2003
  • the film   from jess, Sep 8, 2003
  • Re: the film   from DON, Feb 11, 2005
  • [no subject]   from kate, Oct 6, 2003
  • [no subject]   from Lisa, Oct 22, 2003
  • THE BEST FILM!REALLYYY   from Steph, Oct 28, 2003
  • Great   from Marisa, Nov 18, 2003
  • bend it like beckham   from Sarah, Jan 4, 2004
  • Re: bend it like beckham   from zoe wood, Mar 30, 2004
  • I had to watch it for school!!!!   from Heather, Jan 8, 2004
  • Beckham is AWESOME!   from Mubera B., Jan 12, 2004
  • Re: Beckham is AWESOME!   from James, Jan 15, 2004
  • Best movie i«ve seen on ages   from Victor Hugo, Feb 11, 2004
  • [no subject]   from lucy johns, Feb 11, 2004
  • [no subject]   from carolyn, Apr 21, 2004
  • WICKED COOL   from Lorena Bocanegra, May 10, 2004
  • bend itlike beckham   from sara, May 25, 2004
  • my friend's in it!   from anonymous, Aug 19, 2004
  • Jonathon   from Claire and Mina, Nov 24, 2004
  • wicked   from libby, Nov 25, 2004
  • beckham   from sandy, Dec 14, 2004
  • Awsome   from Claire, Dec 14, 2004
  • bend it like beckham   from james, Dec 20, 2004
  • it was excellent   from james, Dec 20, 2004
  • [no subject]   from Jetta, Dec 30, 2004
  • Saw it   from Daremz, Jan 4, 2005
  • Best British Comedy Ever!   from kerry, Jan 10, 2005
  • the best   from ana, Jan 14, 2005
  • [no subject]   from Claudia, Jan 24, 2005
  • [no subject]   from don, Feb 11, 2005
  • a great movie   from jaque, Feb 14, 2005
  • hey   from ashley, Apr 25, 2005
  • [no subject]   from tina, May 19, 2005
  • LOVED IT!   from sonia><br> E-mail, May 19, 2005
  • [no subject]   from yara, May 30, 2005
  • Fantastic   from Vinny, Jun 14, 2005
  • Legend film   from ~* Becks *~, Jun 15, 2005
  • This film was CRAP!   from Shalini Leavers, Jun 24, 2005
  • this film was the best!!!!   from shalini leavers, Jun 24, 2005
  • That's true   from Tehreem, Aug 31, 2005
  • bend it like beckham   from helen, Sep 10, 2005
  • wicked   from erin, Dec 24, 2005
  • Re: JONATHAN RHYS MEYERS IF FIT&HOT   from shaina, Feb 13, 2007
  • beckham   from tony, Feb 13, 2006
  • Awersome!!!   from Renee, Jun 14, 2006
  • Brilliant!   from Di, Aug 11, 2006
  • bend it like bekham   from bonita, Aug 15, 2006
  • beckham rocks!!!!!!!!!!   from am, Aug 17, 2006
  • beckham   from amrit, Aug 21, 2006
  • gr8   from aks, Sep 19, 2006
  • beckham   from sarass, Jan 14, 2007
  • Beckham is the best   from Lana, Apr 6, 2007
  • honey   from patrick, Jun 19, 2007
  • [no subject]   from , Jul 28, 2007
  • What a handsome boy!!   from Jessie, Oct 15, 2007
  • I REALLY like Beckham....   from churlz, Oct 25, 2008
  • beckham   from josh, Jul 16, 2009

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