Monday, August 28, 2006

"Bend It Like Beckham" -- A Movie Review

Bend It Like Beckham -- A Review by Richard Kew

Say the name Beckham in most circles in the United States are you are met with a blank stare, unless the person you are talking to kept up with the 1990s music scene and remembers, "Wasn't he the guy who married Posh Spice of the erstwhile Spice Girls?" Say the name elsewhere in the world where soccer reigns supreme and there is a certain awe and reverence for the Real Madrid striker, although England fans may turn their noses up a little at the moment because his captaining of the England team did not bring home the World Cup in 2006.

Several years ago there was a sort of Bollywood-come-to-London movie made entitled Bend it like Beckham that has started showing up on various of the movie channels of late in the USA. I suspect it is not being watched by a lot of people, which is a pity because it is a charming little film focusing around the lives of two soccer-crazy teenage girls.

If you have got that far and have just read my last sentence then you are probably wondering if my brain is turning to mush, but I implore you to give me a couple more paragraphs to explain myself.

Set in the West London suburb of Hounslow, this is the tale of two young women who belong to a local women's soccer team, the one from a prosperous blue collar English home and the other from an upwardly mobile Indian background. Of course, Indian girls don't normally don shorts and cleats to kick a ball around a field, but Jessinda (or Jess) slips out of the house behind her parents' backs to indulge in her passion for the beautiful game. And, of course, when it comes to kicking the ball she can bend it into the goal just like David Beckham, who is, quite naturally, her hero. Her best friend, the English girl, is Juliet (or Jules), who has some of the same skills when faced with the delghtful prospect of an open goalmouth.

Yet in a way the story of the two girls and their passion for what the rest of the world calls football is almost incidental to the subplot of the movie, which is the interrelationship two diverse cultural communities living alongside one another in the melting pot that is the sprawling suburbs around London's Heathrow Airport. But this is not another one of those angry multicultural movies, rather it is a delightful insight into the way people of differing backgrounds can relate to one another, as well as the puzzling world of an English kid trying to straddle the world in which she has grown up and mores of the Sikh household in which she is reared.

Directed, produced, and written by Gurinder Chadha, who used to work for the BBC, the movie comes from inside the British Indian community from which we can then look out into the weird world of the English with their strange perceptions and values. Ms Chandha makes creative use of comedy, and clearly has a delightful sense of humor that peeks out from every corner of this movie. On top of that it has a delightful musical score that blends traditional Indian music with Western styles -- I have actually watched it a couple of times just to enjoy the music.

After all sorts of joys and sorrows, a Sikh wedding and fascinating misunderstandings, the two girls win soccer scholarships to the University of California at Santa Clara, and the story ends with them heading through the gate at Heathrow Airport for their new life on the West Coast -- but not without first getting a glimpse of David Beckham walking along an upper hallways with his wife, surrounded by their handlers. The final puzzler is the realization at the very end that Jess has fallen for Joe, the coach of the Hounslow women's team, setting up yet another of those difficult challenges facing Indians living in Britain and trying to hold onto their cultural roots.

Because the movie is such a delight, you come away from it warmed and encouraged about the possibilities and challenges for radically different groups of people to be able to live cheek-by-jowl, and to develop warm and lasting relationships with one another. There is also the message that perhaps soccer can help with all of this. What is a pity is that the only religious piety shown in the movie is that of Jess's superstitiously Sikh mother -- although the way in which she prays is very much like the manner in which so many Christians pray when they bring their shopping list of requests to God.

So, if you get the chance while Bend It Like Beckham cycles through the movie channels, watch and enjoy it.

1 comment:

Reel Fanatic said...

Just wanted to say that I agreed with you wholeheartedly about Bend it Like Beckham .. if you told me I was paying to see a soccer chick flick, I would have run screaming before seeing this, but it's a truly fun little flick