|Bend it Like Beckham
Let me help. Jess gets the personal treatment from her coach
dir Gurinder Chadha
scr Gurinder Chadha, Guljit Bindra, Paul Mayeda Berges
with Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Frank Harper, Juliet Stevenson, Ameet Chana, Archie Panjabi, Anupam Kher, Shaheen Khan, Trey Farley, Shaznay Lewis, Gary Lineker
release UK 12.Apr.02; US 14.Mar.03
Football comedies are a risky business (Mean Machine, anyone?), but this one manages to stay bright and energetic, even if it's profoundly cheesy. Jess (Nagra) is an 18-year-old Londoner with the weight of her Indian culture on her shoulders. Her sister (Panjabi) is about to get married, and her parents (Kher and Khan) want her to be the perfect daughter. But she's obsessed by football and longs to bend a ball like her hero David Beckham, even if it means bending the rules along the way (oh the irony!). Then she meets a kindred soul, Jules (Knightley), whose dad (Harper) is supportive while her ditsy mum (Stevenson, way against type) wants her to be more girly. So Jess and Jules defy their mothers and join a local woman's football team, both falling in love with their coach (Rhys Meyers), having wacky adventures and of course learning important lessons.
This kind of script basically writes itself, using every cornball plot device known to modern cinema. Fortunately, Chadha (What's Cooking) is gifted at capturing culture clashes on screen, and there's a slight edge to the honour/traditions conflict that keeps us interested, while a few moments of decent comedy help carry us through the film's general banality. Although Knightley is a bit too cheery/vengeful, depending on what the script calls for, and Rhys Meyers is frankly not remotely believable as a macho coach, the performances are mostly smart and sharp, making the characters convincing in a way the plot never is. There's simply too much wedged in--romantic triangle, finding your hidden talent, honouring your family, being true to your heritage--and too little creativity. For a formulaic rom-com, it takes itself far too seriously. And the predictable structure makes it feel long, since we have no doubts about where it's going. Still, as an it's-my-life movie this isn't too bad, really--lively and fun and actually touching on solid themes along the way. Pity it doesn't bend many cinematic rules along the way.
"Absolutely brilliant! A film that not only helps people see what it is really like being an Indian growing up in a Western society with different dreams from our elders, but also makes British people understand why we do what we do as Asian adolescents.
A must watch! For Indian parents a message that there is more to life than being a doctor, lawyer, dentist or accountant! For everyone else, we all don't speak using 'innit'!" --A, UK 3.Apr.02
"What an over-rated film! This film is everything that is wrong with British cinema at the moment. The plot, we've seen before, i.e. Billy Elliot (swap the dancing for football), Gregory's Girl (remember that). This cliched stuff was mixed in with Goodness Gracious Me gags (out of date) and plodded along. This is a TV film on the big screen; 40-50 year old Hounslow were generally educated in the UK and do NOT speak with those crap accents. This film was pure fantasy and very embarrassing. But having said that, at least it was not offensive like East is East!" --Sanjeev Bhaskar, London 27.Apr.02
"I think this movie was absolutely brilliant. U.S.A. is having a blast with it. It puts out a message about the many pressures minority groups in Western nations have to overcome, constantly proving to the world and going against the parents. I liked it and have watched it three times already. Good job! America likes it." --Iweni, San Jose, California 4.May.03