Monday 24 October 2022

Movie Review: Bend It Like Beckham (2002)

A sports comedy and romance set in the world of women's football, Bend It Like Beckham is a delightful story of cross-cultural currents.

In London, 18-year-old Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) comes from a traditional Punjabi immigrant family. She is a talented football player and a huge David Beckham fan. With the wedding of her sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi) coming up, Jess' parents want her to stop playing football and focus instead on learning to cook and studying for university admission exams.

Jess' football talent is spotted by Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley), who invites her to try out for the Hounslow Harriers local amateur women's team. Jules herself is facing opposition from her mother, who fears her daughters' passion for football is a harmful distraction. Jess is thrilled to join the Harriers but keeps her involvement with the club a secret from her parents. The team coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) starts to develop feelings for Jess, but with Jules also interested in Joe, the trio head into trouble both on and off the pitch.

A British production directed and co-written by Gurinder Chadha, Bend It Like Beckham tackles a multitude of issues - all with a smile. The immigrant experience, parental opposition to girls in sports mushrooming into panic about sexuality, romantic tensions between coach and players, a love triangle, a Punjabi wedding, and the small matter of pursuing dreams and following your passion are all somehow wedged into a raucous and breezy 112 minutes.

The action on the pitch is scrappy and kept to a minimum, but Parminder Nagra as right winger Jess and Keira Knightley as star striker Jules look the part, having trained intensively in preparation for their roles. Chadha is most interested in the off-field dynamics, and finds plenty of material for drama and comedy in Jess' household. Her father is carrying the scars of racism he faced as a young immigrant trying out for a cricket team. Jess' mom wants her daughters to be ready for marriage, which means learning to cook and behaving in accordance with traditions to attract a husband. Over at Jules' house, the dynamics are played for more broad laughs, her mother freaking out that her tomboy may be a lesbian.

The romantic aspects never quite jell. The relationship between Jess and Joe always feels forced, as does the resultant rift between Jess and Jules. Overall the overlapping material threatens to overrun the third act, as Chadha rushes to tidy up a wedding, a tournament final, the romance, and the girls' future plans. Music, dancing, scoring, kissing, and the obligatory scene at the airport frantically compete for attention in a race to ensure everyone gets a happy ending. Despite the unruliness, Nagra and Knightley embrace spunky maverick attitudes to ensure Bend It Like Beckham scores with ease.

All Ace Black Movie Blog reviews are here.

No comments:

Post a Comment

We welcome reader comments about this post.