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film criticism by maryann johanson | since 1997

Bend It Like Beckham (review)

It’s completely predictable and predictably feel-good, but so damn what? This is an utterly delightful flick, not for the least which reason is that it’s about complex, engaging, and realistically flawed young women devoting their lives to something more ambitious than chasing boys and buying cosmetics.

London teenage Jesminder (Parminder K. Nagra) lives in a schizophrenic world, overprotected and bound by the cultural expectations of her strict Indian parents (Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan) on one side, and tempted by the almost unrestricted possibilities offered by the English culture she grew up in on the other. Mom and Dad tolerate her obsession with football (soccer to us Yanks) in general and superstar David Beckham in particular by assuming it’s a silly affectation that will disappear once they decide it’s time for her to get married.

But when Jess discovers that there are actually girls’ football teams that play in competition — and that it’s not impossible for someone with her talent to play professionally — things get stickier for her. Will Mom and Dad come around in the end? Of course they will, but getting there is fraught with angst of all kinds, from threats to her sister Pinky’s (Archie Panjabi) upcoming marriage by her future in-laws, who disapprove of Jess’s unfeminine and undemure hobby, to Jess’s complicated relationship with her Irish coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers: Ride with the Devil), taboo for more reasons than one. But even her Anglo pals don’t have things so easy: Jules (Keira Knightley) butts heads with her mother (Juliet Stevenson: Nicholas Nickleby) over the proper behavior for girls, too.

It’s cross-cultural! It’s sporting! It’s My Big Fat Indian Football Match! It’s a good night at the movies. Don’t miss it.

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Bend It Like Beckham (2002) | directed by Gurinder Chadha
US/Can release: Mar 12 2003
UK/Ire release: Apr 12 2002

MPAA: rated PG-13 for language and sexual content
BBFC: rated 12 (contains moderate language and sexual references)

viewed at a private screening with an audience of critics

official site | IMDb | trailer
more reviews: Movie Review Query Engine | Rotten Tomatoes

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