Bend It Like Beckham (12)

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The ViewLondon Review

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Review byMatthew Turner04/09/2002

Four out of five star
Running time: 113 mins

Heart-warming British feel-good comedy that comes across like East Is East with football – it’s jam-packed full of clichés, but it has a terrific cast and an infectious sense of fun that should turn it into a decent-sized hit.

Bend It Like Beckham is director Gurinder Chadra’s third film, following Bhaji on the Beach and What’s Cooking?, though, like East Is East, this is certain to find a larger audience and break out of the arthouse slot. It’s extremely well acted and directed with a real affection for its characters and an infectious sense of fun. As such, it will almost certainly be A Very Big Hit Indeed, and deservedly so.

The story manages to cram as many sports-comedy clichés as you can think of into the mix and then adds a couple more for good measure. Football-obsessed 18 year-old Jess Bhamra (newcomer Parvinder Nagra – superb) is content to play football in the park with her male friends, confining her dreams of becoming a famous footballer to bedroom conversations with a huge poster of David Beckham.

That is until she meets Jules (Keira Knightley, who provided the Gratuitous Nudity in The Hole), a gorgeous blonde girl who spots her playing in the park and persuades her to join her all-girl football team, the Hounslow Harriers.

Unsurprisingly, Jess’ parents are not too keen on the idea – “What family will want a daughter-in-law who can kick a football but can’t cook a round chapatti?” cries her Mum – so Jess resorts to playing in secret, telling her parents that she has a job in a record shop.

However, when her sister’s wedding falls on the same day as an important final, Jess’ loyalties are severely tested…

There are no prizes for guessing how it all turns out, obviously, but there are tons of great gags and it’s all delivered with such a sense of fun that you won’t mind the odd spot of emotional manipulation – and, after all, what sports comedy worth its salt would actually leave out the ‘last-minute goal’ or the ‘emotional on-pitch reunion’?

The actors are all superb, particularly Nagra and Knightley, who work well together and make their friendship entirely believable. Nagra, in her debut role, carries the film effortlessly – here’s hoping she lands equally decent film projects in future.

The support cast are good too, with even Jonathan Rhys Meyers (as Jess’ coach and love interest) proving less annoying than usual, and a hilarious Mike Leigh-esque comic turn by Juliet Stevenson as Jules’ mum, who worries that her daughter might be becoming a lesbian (“All I’m saying is, there’s a reason Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella!”)

The film also makes great use of its less cinematically familiar London locations such as Hounslow, Ealing and Southall and although some of the scenes seem a little choppy or amateurish (the montages, for example), they give it a certain rough-edged quality that adds to its charm.

In short, Bend It Like Beckham is an unexpected treat and has the potential to be one of the surprise hits of the year. As an aside, it is rumoured that the real-life Posh and Becks liked the film so much that they insisted on re-shooting a scene that originally involved their look-alikes. Is it really them? You decide. Highly recommended.

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Bend It Like Beckham (12)
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Content updated: 18/12/2017 10:54

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