You might be asking yourself: Bend it Like Who? Although David Beckham may be a household name in England, he is still a bit of an unknown in the States. That is, unless you’re a big soccer fan. David Beckham is the real-life soccer star of Manchester United and the hero of this film’s protagonist Jess Bharma (Parminder K. Nagra), a young Indian girl who dreams of playing professional soccer despite the forbiddance of her family.
Jess’s dreams of playing professional soccer had never made it out of the local park, until one day Jules Paxton (Keira Knightley) just happens to be jogging through. Thanks in large part to her own determination, Jules has managed to get a women’s team together and wants Jess to join. There is only one problem: her family. Her conservative family was fine with her playing soccer when she was young, but now—especially since her older sister is getting married—they want her to find a nice Indian boy, get married and learn how to cook Indian food (sound familiar?). At first Jess is able to sneak away to practices and matches, but once her family gets wind of her activities, she must decide whether to follow her dreams, or stay true to her heritage and risk living a nightmare.
If this plot summary sounds vaguely familiar, it is probably because the movie has a lot in common with last year’s smash hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding (there is even a big, fat Indian wedding). The movie has all the laughs and dilemmas of a girl coming up against her family’s heritage, mixed with an exciting sports movie. If I have one complaint with the movie, it is that it feels like it must add a interethnic relationship between Jess and her white coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). Although the relationship does make for a couple of good gags, the romance seemed forced and it is never quite believable.
For those of you soccer fans hoping to see David Beckham in action, you might be disappointed. Although there is some stock footage of the star at the beginning of the film, he makes only a small cameo in the film later on (and the filmmakers don’t miss a chance for a Spice Girls joke, being that Beckham is married to Posh Spice). Still, there is still plenty of soccer action to satisfy any sports nut and the movie’s soundtrack could probably be released under the “Jock Jams” label.
Will Bend it Like Beckham become the national hit that Greek Wedding was last year? The film has already become a hit in the U.K., but whether or not the same will be true in the U.S. remains to be seen. Either way, it is a funny, exciting and delightful comedy that deserves some attention. I give it an A-.