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Sunday, July 21, 2024


June 11, 2003 – It's becoming known in film circles as "the little foreign film that could." With reason. "Bend It Like Beckham" has all sorts of elements that would not seem to appeal to a large audience. But, they do.
It's a film about an East Indian girl, Jesminder (Parminder K. Nagra), living in London who wants nothing more than to play football ("soccer" to Americans, unlike the rest of the world). The problem is, this goes against the wishes of her parents, who want her to stay home and learn to make the perfect chapatti (a sort of Indian paté) for a perfect Indian husband.
Jess's older sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi), is preparing for a traditional Indian wedding at the same time that Jess is sneaking away for football practice. Seen in the park one day by Juliette (Keira Knightley), who plays for the Hounslow Harriers women's team, Jess is recruited to join them. Their coach is a young Irishman named Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), and it is love at second or third sight — complicated because Joe cannot date his players, and Juliette has a crush on him, too.
Sound familiar? Roger Ebert says while the elements may be routine, "what makes it special is the bubbling energy of the cast." Other reviewers agree. Some have inevitably compared it with "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" — because of the ethnic elements and because it is "just so much fun."
Not all fun, though. It explores the conflict of breaking away from a traditional, tight-knit family and playing a sport, a traditional man's sport at that, and getting away with it. The film first made its way around the art houses but then began popping up in commercial theaters. It's first run in New York right now.
Director Gurinder Chada wondered how it would make the transition to a wider audience. She tells a story in The Los Angeles Times: As she was walking out of a theater in Houston after a screening of her film, an older man wearing a cowboy hat sauntered over to her. "Mighty fine movie, young lady," he said in his Texas drawl.
Chada, who had never visited Texas before, asked him what he had like about a romantic comedy set in a suburban Indian neighborhood of West London. "It was intimate," he said.
According to the L.A. Times review, the movie's fans range from Girl Scouts and tweenie soccer players to a California state legislator who wants to screen it for her colleagues in honor of the 31st anniversary of Title IX, the 1972 federal law which catapulted girls' and women's participation in sports by denying federal funding to schools that discriminated in programs on a gender basis.
And, although he would hardly be a benchmark, there's that aging Texan.
Oh, by the way, the title: David Beckham is England's Michael Jordan of soccer. He is currently touring the United States promoting his sport. "Bending" is term that describes Beckham's reputed ability to put a spin on a soccer ball so that it will curve right around the opposing goalie.
The 112-minute movie is rated PG-13 for language and sexual content. It is playing at Market Square East.

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