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*** Official "BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM" Review Thread

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#1 of 5 Robert Crawford

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Posted March 23 2003 - 07:25 AM

This thread is now the Official Review Thread for "Bend It Like Beckham". Please post all HTF member reviews in this thread.

Any other comments, links to other reviews, or discussion items will be deleted from this thread without warning!

If you need to discuss those type of issues then I have designated an Official Discussion Thread.




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#2 of 5 Michael Reuben

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Posted March 23 2003 - 08:07 AM

Originally posted in the 2003 Foreign, Alternative and Independent Films thread.

Imagine all of the following hackneyed elements rolled into one 2-hour movie:
  • the sports movie featuring an underdog player on whose shoulders the Big Game comes to rest;
  • the female empowerment movie about women struggling to define themselves in a man's world;
  • the immigrant movie in which the new generation just can't relate to the concerns of its parents (recently revived by My Big Fat Greek Wedding);
  • the "person with a talent" movie in which a youngster with some special ability (artistic, athletic) has to struggle for acceptance in a world that wants him/her to choose a more respectable profession;
  • the teenage romantic triangle;
  • the sibling rivalry plot (but deep down they care for each other as family members should).
That gives you some idea of the plot elements to expect in this film, but it can't prepare you for the cleverness, charm and sheer energy with which this remarkable project has been put together by director Gurinder Chadha (who also co-wrote the script).

Let me disclose up front that I know zero about soccer (or football, or whatever). If I correctly understood what I learned in the film, the title refers to the ability of soccer star David Beckham (and tabloid regular, thanks to marrying Posh Spice) to make the ball curve in just the right way to evade the goalie. That's the dream of teenage Jess, the raised-in-England child of a Sikh family relocated from India to London. The obstacles in Jess's way are formidable: There's no regular woman's team; her mother wants her to get married, cook and have a family like her sister is doing; her father wants her to become a solicitor; and the male friends with whom she hones her playing skills in the park are happy to include her but still treat her like a girl.

And then Jess meets Jules.

Jules has it a little easier. Her mother (played with pitch-perfect cluelessness by Juliet Stevenson) wants to interest her in girlie pursuits, but her father is happy to train her, and Jess has found an informal women's team set up as a kind of auxiliary to a men's team. At Jules' urging, Jess tries out and makes the team. Then she has to spend about half the movie lying to her family and sneaking off to practice. And when the Big Game, which will be attended by the professional American scout (!), is scheduled for the same day as Jess's sister's wedding . . . get the idea?

Along the way, Jess and Jules find themselves in a love triangle with their coach, nicely underplayed by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, and get mistaken for lesbians by Jules's hopeless mum. One of the things that makes the movie work is the apparent effortlessness with which director Chadha juggles all these elements, and the effect of cramming so much incident into one movie is to reenergize routines that, by themselves, would seem shop-worn. It helps that the cast is a winning one, especially Parminder K. Nagra, who is never anything less than believeable as Jess.

The film is loaded with unexpected grace notes that are, all by themselves, worth the price of admission. I give nothing away by disclosing that the opening sequence is one of Jess's daydreams, which is rudely interrupted in a way that lays out Jess's whole predicament for you. A cell phone ringing at an engagement party leads to a great visual joke. A brief scene showing Jess's mother trying to teach her traditional Indian cooking tells you in a few hilarious frames that Jess's heart isn't in it. And when Jess faces her moment of truth in the Big Game, something so unexpected happens that I nearly fell out of my seat laughing. The closing scene, which involves a cricket match (a game I will NEVER understand), even manages to resolve a trailing plot point that I never imagined the movie would find a way to work out.

It's not an especially deep film, and one could argue that some of the resolutions are a little too easy (like a lot of TV shows, the plot relies on a father who, in the crunch, knows best). But it's a hopeful movie, which is why I suspect it's such a crowd-pleaser and has already done major box office in the U.K. Even the credits are exuberant. They feature a sing-a-long by what appears to be the entire cast and crew (and a few bloopers for good measure). It's obvious that everyone involved had a good time making the film, and the pleasure is right there on the screen.

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#3 of 5 Robert Crawford

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Posted March 30 2003 - 08:23 AM

I ventured down to Detroit to watch this film with high expectations and after seeing it, I can say I wasn't let down at all. This is an enjoyable little film that in some ways is better than MBFGW in my opinion. The young female lead in this film is very engaging and you really care about the character she is playing. I also liked the young actress playing her friend Jules who's facial features reminds me of a taller Winona Ryder with lighter hair. Like Michael mentioned, the actors playing the parents were a hoot, particulary the actress playing Jules, mother. Also, make sure you stay for the closing credits! I highly recommend this film.




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#4 of 5 Edwin Pereyra

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Posted April 19 2003 - 01:20 AM

Gurinder Chadha’s Bend It Like Beckham skillfully combines the various elements and themes that have made other films before it a success and neatly wraps it up into one delightful package: female empowerment (Real Women Have Curves), inter-ethnic relationship (My Big Fat Greek Wedding), an Indian wedding (Monsoon Wedding), preconceived notions about activities dominated by the other sex (Billy Elliott) and defying the odds.

As a crowd-pleaser, it is funny, charming and well acted and has the potential to become one of this year’s breakout independent hit.

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#5 of 5 Patrick Sun

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Posted April 19 2003 - 01:54 AM

Pretty good film, and good use of the title as a metaphor for reaching for something extra to get you over the hump of complacency and familiar expectations.

Don't let the "formulaic" labels being applied to the film prevent you from checking it out because it does many things so very well, and it will put a big smile on your face and a very engaging tale of following your dreams in spite of the odds. And don't forget to stay for the credits, they are also very humorous.

Just a FYI, the actress playing Jules is Keira Knightley, who will be featured in the upcoming "Pirates of the Carribean", and among the trivia-minded, was the actress who played the decoy queen in The Phanton Menace. It took me a while to even put her face with her previous work, and to me, she could also pass for a taller, more athletic version of Natalie Portman (with the requisite blond hair). She's got very good screen presence.

Parminder Nagra does a very nice job playing Jess, peppering her performance with very honest emotions/reactions to the situations (on the field and off the field) she finds herself once she starts playing on a female football (soccer) team unbeknownst to her family.

The supporting cast of parents is quite funny in their own little ways, in the face of societal and familial hurdles that come from their daughters' love for football(soccer) while eskewing the more conventional life they so desire for their children because they know no better.

I give it 3 stars, or a solid grade of B for Beckham.
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