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Friday Film Review: Bend it Like Beckham

bend-it-like-beckhamBend it Like Beckham (2003)
Genre: Comedy/Drama/Romance/Sport
Grade: A-

Jess: Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?

What better time to post this review then during the World Cup? Though as I’ve stated before footie/soccer isn’t a sport that gets me excited, I do love this movie.

Jess – Jessminder to her mother – (Parminder Nagra) is footie mad and talented too. Her favorite player is David Beckham and in her dreams she scores goals with him then has her play analyzed by Gary Lineker, John Barnes and Alan Hansen. In reality, she plays with some male friends in the park when her parents (Anupam Kher and Shaheen Khan), orthodox Sikhs, don’t know what she’s up to. It’s here that Jules (Kiera Knightley) sees her, recognizes Jess’s talent and tells her team coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) about her.

When Jules approaches Jess about joining the team, Jess is thrilled. Here’s a chance for her to play on a real team, with a real pitch, organized games and everything. But her parents would never approve so Jess still sneaks out, sometimes with the help of her older and soon to be married sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi). When a US scout is due to watch one of their games, Jess is gutted that it’s the same day as Pinky’s wedding. Can she find a way to attend both, keep her parents happy and maybe start a romance?

I don’t know how many times I’ve watched this film and I still love it. Director Gurinder Chada (who also directed Bride and Prejudice) lucked out to get Knightley and Rhys Meyers before they rocketed to fame and probably would have cost too much. As well, she got Beckham and Mia Hamm to agree to allow their names and likenesses to be used and (if you check the extras section) Beckham and Posh Spice even join in the singing bits which are hilariously shown in the closing credits. Hot, hot, hot! I’m an extras fan and love the commentary track too. Chadha is so much fun to listen to and even includes a bit of her cooking aloo gobi with her mother and auntie looking on and offering advice/criticism!

The film is filled with energy and movement. The music is brilliant and an obvious effort has been made to make the football scenes look realistic. From what Chadha said, the coach of the England women’s team worked with the actors and even has a bit part as a referee in the last game. The message is pro women in sport and doing what you love without turning into a preachy session. I also like that Pinky isn’t denigrated in contrast for being traditional and just wanting to get married. Unlike “Dil Bole Hadippa!” which features a young woman who wants to play cricket in India, the only preaching speech here is a short one at the end by Jess’s father when he decides to defy his wife and let Jess follow her dream. And I loved his scenes of pride in his daughter’s skill. Two daughters happy on the same day, what father could want more.

Two characters I didn’t mention in the blurb but who are fantastic are Juliet Stevenson (Paula) and Frank Harper (Alan) as Jules’s parents. Juliet steals every scene she’s in from the bra shopping one to her enormous Ascot hat to the confrontation with the girl she thinks is the lesbian whom her daughter is in love with. “Get your lesbian feet out of my shoes!”
And then there’s the condiments scene where her husband tries to explain the offside rule to her. “Don’t tell me. The offside rule is when the French mustard has to be between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt.”

There is a bit of a romance, if you wait for it, but the other relationships in the movie are just as good. Jules and Jess (what would this be called, a sismance, womance, femance, girmance?) become best friends, Jess and Pinky – though radically different in what they want out of life – back each other up (most of the time), Jess’s parents truly want the best for her and Jess’s friend Tony is willing to make a major sacrifice for her to have a chance to go to America. And even Jules’s mother eventually decides to try and learn the sport so she will understand her daughter better.

I like the glimpse of Indian English life, the celebration of women in sport, how the film spoofs the belief that sport makes women masculine, the positive but open ending, and how I always finish the film with a smile on my face. Though some plot points feel labored and slightly forced (how Jules’s parents think she’s lesbian and the rivalry between Jess and Jules for Joe) other things like Pinky’s wedding – intercut with the football game – and the momentary vision Jess has before her last kick more than make up for them. There’s something here for just about everyone including an aloo gobi lesson. I’m off to buy the spices now.


Another long time reader who read romance novels in her teens, then took a long break before started back again about 15 years ago. She enjoys historical romance/fiction best, likes contemporaries, action- adventure and mysteries, will read suspense if there's no TSTL characters and is currently reading very few paranormals.


  1. Mina Kelly
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 05:17:57

    It’s such a great film, this, though I tend to forget about it outside of footy season. The Beckham aspect risks dating it slightly, but probably not for a few more years yet.

    Rhys Meyers was already pretty well known in the UK for taking the leading role in Gormenghast (which is impressive considering he was pretty much unknown then, and the rest of the cast is a who’s who of top British actors); if you like him in The Tudors you’ll love him in Gormenghast. I honestly didn’t not recognise him in BlB, which is probably a good thing. If he broguht the creepy, manipulative vibe he’s so good at to this role this would be a whole different film! It’s great to see him stretch his acting chops in this direction.

  2. Sandy James
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 05:40:11

    I knew you’d love this movie!! Everything about it is so well done — from the acting to the costumes to the story! So glad you enjoyed it, Jayne! It’s truly one of my favorites. Even gave it a “shout out” in one of my books. :)

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  4. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 05:44:36

    @Mina Kelly: Yeah, I agree that the association with Beckham will date the film after a while and for a while. But it seems like after a number of years, it will move it into iconic status.

    I only watched part of the first episode of The Tudors but didn’t care for the soap opera-ish aspects. And since it looks like Netflix doesn’t have Gormenghast, seeing that will have to wait.

  5. Tae
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 05:45:19

    This is one of my favorite movies. I love watching soccer and at the time I was also in love with Beckham so what a perfect movie. JRM was good eye candy as well

  6. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 05:47:16

    @Sandy James: I’ve had it on my list of “movies to do” for ages now then smacked myself when I realized with the World Cup being played, it’s a perfect time to write and post it. ;)

  7. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 05:50:07

    @Tae: It’s easy to see why both Jess and Jules fall for JRM here. But the other guys in the park scenes aren’t bad either. Chadha said she kept telling them they had to take off their shirts all the time – even when they really didn’t!

  8. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 08:22:50

    Very rare you get a good footie film (remember “Escape to Victory”? No, good) but this is a goodie.
    Like all good films with a sports background it uses the sport to illuminate other things – Field of Dreams, Bull Durham, This Sporting Life…
    And I love Bride and Prejudice too. One of my favourite Austen films.

  9. Joanna
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 08:28:11

    I loved this movie too – such fun! And I’m not even that big of a soccer fan. I thought it was a novel new version of the traditional story of a child who has a different dream for their lives then their parents do and how that conflict plays out. I haven’t seen this in years maybe it’s time to look it up again.

  10. Angie
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 08:48:44

    This was a great movie. :) I’ll admit I watched it for Parminder Nagra, having become a fan of hers from ER. But the story was great, the characters, the movies, the sports scenes (exciting and just enough, not dragged on too long) and the culture clash — excellent stuff.


  11. Tamara Hogan
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 08:58:14

    I love this movie – but I also get a little depressed at the reminder of what Keira Knightley looked like before she dieted herself down to the bone.

    The scene where Jess’s dad tells her to go to the game makes my eyes sting.

  12. Sherry Thomas
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 09:08:14

    Lol, womance, I love it!

  13. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 09:17:22

    @Sherry Thomas: I even Googled for a term to describe a female bromance and came up empty. Is there one?

  14. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 09:40:37

    @Lynne Connolly: AOL had a list of the top footie movies and this one came in at #1.

  15. Sunita
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 10:01:03

    I love this movie, despite all the cliched bits. Archie Punjabi (now in The Good Wife) is amazingly good as the older sister, she brings so many layers to a role that could have easily been one-dimensional. And the great Anupam Kher (not Khe) steals as many scenes as Julie Stevenson does, but more quietly!

    I just wish Chadha had dialed down the Indian mother/aunt/grandmother stereotypes a bit. You’d never know from this film that many Indian women remain gorgeous and sexy well into middle age and don’t spend all their time haranguing their husbands and children.

    ETA: Another vote for womance!

  16. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 10:07:48

    @Sunita: Oops, sorry about the misspell. Fixed now.
    Chadha said that Shaheen Khan actually had to put on weight for her role which tickled her friends.

  17. Sunita
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 11:17:02

    @Jayne: And of course I meant Juliet, not Julie, Stevenson. Stupid typos.

  18. Jacqueline L.
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 13:50:41

    Favourite quote from the movie:

    “One of our designs, even these mosquito bites will look like juicy, juicy mangoes!”


  19. Sherry Thomas
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 13:50:51

    @Jayne: When womance starts popping up everywhere, remember to stake your claim to it. In fact, copyright it today. :-)

  20. Evangeline
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 16:26:39

    It may have been the extra bits from the behind the scenes, or an article I read when this film was first released, but the original script or aim of the film was supposed to be a love story between Jules and Jess. An interesting angle, but it probably would have overshadowed the heart and grit of the film.

  21. Suze
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 17:42:13

    I love this movie. I watched it when it first came out at the wildly-overpriced Odeon Cineplex Giant Theatre with my roomie, then I went back the next day to watch it again with my best friend, and then again the next day by myself. And I’m pretty sure I went back a few more times while it was still playing there. At full Giant Theatre New Release Price, while I was a student. Man, it was good. I watch it on DVD every 3 months or so. In fact, that’s a good idea for tonight. Thanks! :)

  22. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 18:15:54

    @Evangeline: Then it would have been known as the “lesbian footie/soccer” movie. And I agree that the emphasis would have been radically shifted.

  23. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 18:18:27

    @Sherry Thomas: Good idea to copyright but in this case I can’t since I snagged these descriptions off a site where you can ask questions and people give responses.

    But “Disney Whores” is mine! ;)

  24. Jayne
    Jun 18, 2010 @ 18:19:50

    @Suze: That’s a lot of expensive love!

  25. cate
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 02:05:09

    As a lifelong loather of football,I have to
    say I love this film. It’s lovely to see
    Juliet Stevenson (one of my fave actresses)
    in a mainstream film.
    For those of you who haven’t seen her before.
    May I strongly suggest that you get Truly,Madly,
    Deeply….co star Alan Rickman. For me, it’s
    the most romantic film ever

  26. Janine
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 02:59:20

    I saw this in the theater back when it came out and thought it was a lot of fun. I’d probably give it a B or B+.

    But “Disney Whores” is mine! ;)

    And it’s a classic!

  27. Jayne
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 05:25:53

    @cate: Love, love, love “Truly, Madly, Deeply.” Have you read my review here? I wish it was available as a DVD now. I also love JS in “The Politician’s Wife” and more recently in “Pierrepoint.”

  28. KristieJ
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 06:14:24

    When I first saw this movie I was amazed at how much I enjoyed it. It really is good isn’t it?
    And womance is a great term. :-)

  29. cate
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 06:48:43

    Just had a squizz at your TMD review Jayne,
    and I heartily concur with your assessment !
    JS is a fab actress …she even made The Secret
    of Moonacre watchable….& that’s one of the
    worst adaptations of a childrens classic I’ve
    ever seen.
    For Gurindar Charda fans, I’ve just seen her
    new film It’s a Wonderful Afterlife, & it’s
    delightful. All about a matchmaking Hindi
    mother popping off all the people who stand
    in the way of her daughters happiness

  30. Jayne
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 06:53:40

    @cate: Ooh, thanks for the info about her new film. I was wondering if it was good or not.

  31. Joseph
    Jun 19, 2010 @ 16:29:53

    I think this movie portrays the subjects of generational and cultural clash in a sutile and modern way, it is hard for the new generations of immigrants to find common grounds with their family and the country ther grew up in, I particularly liked how they talk about the limitations women face in some cultures, and how they can be empowered by self confidence and family communication, I think itis a good movie.

  32. Lynne Connolly
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 13:54:09

    @Jayne: Yes, I’d say it was. Not many good footie movies, but this is definitely one of them.

    But for me, a newish movie, “Looking for Eric” is even better. Awesome film.

    Oh yes, and “Gandalf Goes To The World Cup” a new short –

  33. Jayne
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 17:17:01

    @Lynne Connolly: “Hey Gandalf, man… you ruined my vuvuzela! No, wait… it’s working!”

    OMG, how freaking hilarious. Never having heard the noise before, I can see/hear how it is driving viewers mental.

  34. Sunita
    Jun 20, 2010 @ 22:03:21

    @Lynne Connolly: Oooh, Looking for Eric! So glad you mentioned it.

    Mayo and Kermode reviewed it in the UK last summer but it just opened here in the US. I am really looking forward to it. M&K had an interview w/Loach and it was fabulous. I think there are interviews out there w/Cantona as well that are well worth listening to.

    Even for people who have no idea who Eric Cantona is, it should work.

  35. Liz Fichera
    Jun 21, 2010 @ 07:32:20

    I loved everything about this movie! Great acting, wonderful story, humor, strong female characters. Wish there were more like it.

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