Bend It like Beckham Reviews
Jess' attempt to keep her feet in both worlds provides an enthralling look into a culture with very different values, existing as a country within a country. A crowd-pleaser to be sure, and may be faulted for trying to please too much by fitting everything in a too-neat little package by the end. I also felt uneasy with the evolving relationship the team coach who appears mid-twenties has towards the girls, who presumably are near 18 since they talk about attending university soon, but look more like they are 15.
"Bend It Like Beckham" is a formulaic coming-of-age dramedy, but never did I feel manipulated to smile, to laugh, to do anything pertaining to unbridled amusement. Years down the road, I may not remember the inner workings of its plot; what I will remember, though, is how much elation I felt during its quick 112 minutes. So lucrative is its formula that I turned into one of those middle-aged monsters who finds themselves unembarrassed to talk to the screen, begging the characters to make the right decisions.
A radiant Parminder Nagra portrays Jesminder Bhamra, a British teenager of Indian descent. Though her family resides in London, still strong is their attachment to their strict culture. A picture of their maker hangs above the fireplace, judging every move; the mother (Shaheen Khan), conservative and close-minded, doesn't much care about education, preferring that her daughters learn how to cook a proper Indian meal and feed it to their (future) nice, Indian husband.
But Jess feels trapped. She's a high school senior, bright, and completely in love with -- GASP -- soccer. While the other teenage girls in her culture have accepted their upcoming marital dilemma, Jess wants something more. She wants to receive a good education, to become the female David Beckham. Fearing the wrath of her domineering parents, she attends soccer practice under the guise that she's headed to a demanding job.
Jess becomes close to a fellow teammate, Juliette (Keira Knightley), and soon develops a crush on her young coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Before, her biggest concern was to avoid getting caught by her parents. Now, she not only has to worry about punishment; she also has to deal with the fact that Juliette fancies Joe too.
On paper, "Bend It Like Beckham" sounds, expectedly, like tepid formula. But with its irrepressibly wonderful cast and knack for natural comedy, it's a notable success that gives us an excuse to abandon our problems and find escape in someone else's. It's a warm film, perhaps doped up with copious amounts of anti-depressant medication.
The best thing about "Bend It Like Beckham" is Nagra, an appealing actress that gives Jess an immediately charismatic air. So often are we told to like the teen at the center of a coming-of-age movie; unusually, Nagra makes it easy for us to root for Jess. Delightfully supporting her are a spry, witty Knightley, a hilariously shrill Shaheen Khan, and Juliet Stevenson, who portrays Juliette's mother with extroverted comedic skill.
It's rare to laugh out loud during a film, and "Bend It Like Beckham" provides plenty of gut-busters. Not because of a well-timed punchline, not because of a physical comedy mess -- because human interaction is funny, because clashing cultures can be funny. "Bend It Like Beckham" is a winner.