Bend It Like Beckham (2003)
Review Date: March 26, 2003
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Writer: Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra
Producers: Gurinder Chadha, Deepak Nayar
A young Indo-British girl loves playing soccer and frequently joins the boys' games in the park. One day, another girl notices her and asks her to join the local woman's team, and the next thing you know...she's one of the better girl players around. Unfortunately, her passion also brews trouble at home as her traditional Indian family wants nothing more for her but to get married, to learn to cook and to give up the soccer ball (story of my life). The age-old cultural/generational gap story ensues.
Easily one of the more delightful, charming and comical imports of the past couple of years, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM may have a strange title to us "Americanos", but it definitely doesn't skip out on elements that we all value in our entertainment packages including a great helping of fun and loads of enthusiasm. By the end of this enjoyable pickle, even my mangy macho arse was tearing up alongside the ladies in the back row and jumping for joy with the little girls to my left (don't ask). I swear this movie made me want to be a British female teen at various points!! Its infectious attitude, its leading stars, its peppy direction, all swept me into its culture-clash laden screenplay filled with passion, heartfelt emotion, actual developed human beings as well as a number of funny situations all around. But before I go any further, allow me to give it up for Parminder Nagra, the lovely (and I stress the word "lovely"!) lead actress who besides being a very attractive young lady, really pulled off a brilliant portrayal of a hip chick caught between the love of her parents and their traditions, and her indelible passion and appreciation for her more contemporary surroundings. Nagra brought the perfect balance of cuteness, toughness, sincerity and spirit to her part and really pulled me into her corner early on. I also want to date her, but that's another story altogether (call me!). Her partner in the piece, Keira Knightley, better known to me as the perfect amalgamation of Natalie Portman and Winona Ryder with a British accent, also kicked ass as the British side of the story, and brought even more breadth to the picture, with a parallel storyline of her own. All of the secondary players were also fun and believable, most notably Anupam Kher who played Nagra's dad to perfection, and even had me reaching for the hankies at some point ("You tell her, dad!!"), and Juliet Stevenson, who played Knightley's mum and brought a goofy dimension to the film as well (loved the whole lesbian angle...natch!).
Needless to say, the soccer scenes were also engaging, with plenty of upbeat pop music thumping things along, but if anyone thinks that this film is about soccer...you would be very much mistaken. Anyone from anywhere in the world should be able to relate to this story because it's about family, it's about pursuing your dreams and it's about love and fate. And that's what I believe is this film's greatest asset: its ability to bring forth real human connection through a more-or-less fluffy plotline about an Indian girl trying to play soccer against the wishes of her parents. In fact, there's nothing particularly revolutionary about this film's plotline, which was even a tad redundant at times, but at the end of the day, I was grinning like a pervert when I walked out of my screening, engulfed by its energy and wanting nothing more than what the film provided for in the end, which was a huge chunk of entertainment alongside real characters, fun sequences and yes, even a tad of romance. And oh yeah, unlike the very overrated MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING, this film actually provided its parents with some dimension and reasons for being overprotective (other than the fact that they're just "old school") and even included actual "obstacles" in the story as well, even if the outcome is quite inevitable. In fact, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM is sure to please most anyone looking for a "good commercial time" at the theaters and I personally hope that it finds as large an audience as it did in its native England, where it became the biggest box-office draw of all-time (for a British-financed, British-distributed film). Formulaic, but fun. PS: Stay tuned during the film's end credits to see how much fun everyone obviously had during this shoot. Note to self: Try to integrate the word "brilliant" into more of your every day vernacular (with British accent).
(c) 2016 Berge Garabedian