Published Mar 01, 2003It's probably safe to say that if you liked Billy Elliott, you will like Bend It Like Beckham. Written and directed by Gurinder Chadha, this family-oriented movie is full of honest performances, and is the product of a warm and fuzzy sensibility, if not an original one.
In this formulaic story, the protagonist is the daughter of traditional Indian parents living in England. Her older sister is a little rebellious, but negotiates her needs without testing her parents' faith too far. The younger sister, Jess (Parminder Nagra), is not so lucky. She tries to satisfy what everyone regards as an innocent, if irksome, passion for soccer, with Indian boys, who indulge her despite their chauvinism because of her ability. The wheels of fate are set in motion when Jess is approached by Jules (Keira Knightly), who plays for a girls' football club. When Jess makes it onto the team, subterfuge, parental horror, misunderstandings and endless predictable plot twists ensue. All dramatic possibilities are exhausted before all is resolved tearfully.
Maybe it's good that Jess' family, coach, Jules and all who fall within her sphere will experience personal growth and insight by virtue of the ripple effect. Maybe it's not the yearning for dramatic tension on my part but sour grapes that makes me wish the spunky, talented Jess would learn that not every struggle ends perfectly, even when integrity is maintained. Nor are soccer games and various other dramatic forums of human interaction invariably accompanied by an ad hoc selection of well-known popular tunes, which do nothing to further the action. Only once does silence leave space for a bit of excitement to creep in as we hear contact made with the ball, a glimmer of the possibilities that might abound if freed from generic sentiment. Otherwise, know what to expect.