March 2003
Bend It Like Beckham

Reviewed by Wilson Morales

Bend It Like Beckham
Distributor: Fox Searchlight
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Producers: Deepak Nayar, & Gurinder Chadha
Screenwriters: Gurinder Chadha, Guljit Bindra, & Paul Mayeda Berges
Cast: Paminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, Anupan Kher, Archie Panjabi, Shaznay Lewis, Frank Harper & Juliet Stevenson


The title of the film refers to England’s famous soccer player, David Beckham, and his ability to “bend” a soccer ball, but the film is much more than that. It’s about family relationships, it’s about sexuality, and it’s about one's determination to live her life, her way, and not her family’s. At a time when multicultural films are doing well at the box office like “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, audience are more likely to see this film and feel very relaxed and upbeat. Directed and co-written by Gurinder Chadha, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM is a delightful film filled with some humor and good acting.

Playing a sport and trying to be the best at the game is one thing, but when your family thinks it inappropriate for a female to do so is another. Such is the case for Jess, short for Jeswinder. She loves the game and idolizes its star player David Beckham so much that her bedroom wall is like a shrine to him. Living in London and coming from a conventional Sikh family has its ups and downs. For one thing her family is very loving and supportive of what Jess does, so long as it follows in the tradition of Sikh women. Playing soccer is not the cards so says her parents (Anumpan Kher & Sheheen Khan). When another soccer player, Jules, played by Keira Knightley, sees how good Jess plays and invites her to join her local soccer team, Jess can’t resist. Afraid to tell her parents, Jess enlists some help from her unknowing sister Pinky (Punjabi), who’s about to be married. Meanwhile, Jules, who’s English, is facing a similar crisis at home as well. While her mom (Juliet Stevenson) is also supportive of her daughter, she does wish Jules would be more into feminine things like a women’s bra, not an athletic bra, and maybe get a boyfriend. Both Jess and Jules love the sport and have become fast friends. Their coach Joe (Rhys-Meyers) encourages them to play to their potential because scouts will be coming to their games and offer scholarships. For Jules, it’s about the game and for Jess, it’s also the same thing, but she also wants the respect from her family, which won’t be so easy when they want her to follow traditional roots.

Who says sports films are meant for guys only? With the rise of women’s professional sports in basketball and now soccer, the audience has widen. What’s amazing about this film is that Director Chadha is able blend in both cultures marvelously with some humor and emotion. The acting is great all around. Parminder Nagra is a true find. Underneath these Puma wearing athletes are women who are out to show the world that they can play just as well as the men. Juliet Stevenson is a riot. Her comedic timing is just perfect for her scenes. Rhys-Meyers adds to chemistry that's between the two leads. With the success of the foreign film “Monsoon Wedding” last year, films embracing the Indian community are starting to have a crossover appeal. Filled with some pop music by Victoria Beckham and Melanie C (former Spice Girls) and some Indian music by Gunjan, the music in the film is very good and has a diverse mix of talent. Already a hit in England and other parts of the world, BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM is a charming, upbeat comedic film that should please all. A definite must see.