By Andrew Ross
Bend It Like Beckham is a family, cross-cultural, girl-power, inspirational-coming-of-age, romantic, British, comedy sports film. It satisfies all of the stereotypes associated with these genres, but is not painful to watch; rather, it is an entertaining film, though thoroughly predictable. The only surprise is that the film actually works: the archetypal characters are fleshed-out enough to be believable; the transparent fairy-tale plot doesn’t draw too much attention to itself; and the script manages to avoid the cliched lines one would expect in such a story.
Set in West London, Bend It tells the story of two girls, one English and one Indian, who both have a love of soccer, a love of their soccer coach, and parents who disapprove of their ambitions.
Newcomer Parminder Nagra shines in the lead role of Jess Bhamra, the tomboy daughter of traditional Sikh parents (who naturally disapprove of her ambitions to become a professional soccer player). Opposite her is Keira Knightley, who plays Jules Paxton, the tomboy daughter of traditional English parents (who naturally disapprove of her ambitions to become a professional soccer player). Both of them are romantically interested in their coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a young Irishman whose pro soccer career was ended by a knee injury, (which he acquired while trying to win his father’s approval). Of course this tests their friendship, and it could spell disaster for the team if they can’t work things out before the championship final! Not to mention that the American talent scout is interested in both of them, but they’ll have to work together to impress him and get the scholarship to go play in the USA and eventually turn pro!
And as if that wasn’t enough, Jess’ sister’s wedding is at the same time as the final, and her family expects her to be there! Throw in Jess’ gay best friend, her bad-girl-gone-good older sister (and her sister’s fiance and in-laws to be), Jules’ parents (who think she is a lesbian), some snooping neighbours, and you have a movie! And I’m all out of exclamation marks.