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Laramie Movie Scope:
Bend it Like Beckham

A sweet, feminist, cross-cultural romantic comedy

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by Robert Roten, Film Critic
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May 2, 2003 -- I missed my chance a year ago to see “Bend it Like Beckham” in England when I was there, but luckily, I got another chance because it is in release in the U.S. It turns out this is a break not just for me, but for all movie fans in the U.S. This is a well-written, funny, heartwarming film with a nice message about being true to your own dreams.

I heard about this film while I was visiting London last year, but not having Internet access, I couldn't find out enough about it to know if it was worth seeing. It turns out to be a good film, and it could turn out to be a sleeper hit like last year's “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.” This movie is more like “My Big Fat Indian Soccer Game.” It is a sports movie with the usual sports clichés, but it also includes a nice romantic comedy and a good drama about a young woman from an Indian family living in England who wants to follow her dreams of soccer stardom (the game is called football outside the U.S.). She learns that her goals are in conflict with her parents wishes and her cultural traditions. Like “Monsoon Wedding,” the film celebrates the exuberant lifestyle of the Punjabi people. The Punjabis know how to party, and a big wedding is a key part of the film. The title of the film, by the way, refers to the way that English soccer star David Beckham can kick the ball so that it curves sharply in the air.

The film's central character is Jesminder “Jessie” Bhamra (played by Parminder K. Nagra). She is a very talented soccer player and has a legitimate chance to play professionally. Her hero is David Beckham. In her room alone, she talks to Beckham's poster the way some people talk to God. Her family, however, feels that soccer is a waste of her time. They want her to go to college and get married to a nice Indian boy from a good family. Jessie's talent is noticed by another player, Juliette “Jules” Paxton (played by Keira Knightley of “Holes”), and she is invited to join a soccer team playing in a regional league (no salaries are paid to the players in the league, however).

Jessie becomes a star player for the team, but complications arise when she and her friend Juliette are both attracted to the same man, the Irish coach of the team, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers of “Titus”). When Jessie's soccer career comes in conflict with her sister's wedding, Jessie's family forbids her to play for the team. Jessie's father, (played by Anupam Kher) wants his daughter to be happy, but feels she won't be given a fair chance at a soccer career because of racism. Jessie's mother (played by Shaheen Khan) wants her daughter to be more traditional, like Jessie's sister, Pinky (played by Archie Punjabi). Will Jessie get to play in the big game? What happens to Jessie's romance?

The acting in the film is strong and the characters are well-written and they are developed in depth. The story is a well-worn formula with a big game and all, but the strong characters and interpersonal relationships make the film a compelling crowd-pleaser. Parminder K. Nagra provides a good performance as the film's main character. She is naive, but determined to succeed. Her personality is not forceful, but she won't let herself be pushed around, either. She's romantic, but practical. She is an intelligent, adult, three-dimensional, complex character, and so are most of the main characters in the movie. Jessie's mother is a bit flighty, but she isn't stupid, just very rigid in her patterns of thought. Writer-director Gurinder Chadha has developed a very good sports film that goes well beyond the usual expectations of the genre. This film rates a B.

Click here for links to places to buy or rent this movie in video and/or DVD format, or to buy the soundtrack, posters, books, even used videos, games, electronics and lots of other stuff. I suggest you shop at least two of these places before buying anything. Prices seem to vary continuously. For more information on this film, click on this link to The Internet Movie Database. Type in the name of the movie in the search box and press enter. You will be able to find background information on the film, the actors, and links to much more information.

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Copyright © 2003 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
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Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)