Bend It Like Beckham [retro review]

“Get your lesbian feet out of my shoes!”

The Scoop: 2002 PG-13, directed by Gurinder Chadha and starring Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, and Jonathan Rhys-Meyers

Tagline: Who wants to cook Aloo Gobi when you can bend a ball like Beckham?

Summary Capsule: A girl playing sports? What’s next, a woman running for congress? We live in a bizarre age, folks.

Justin’s Rating: Soccer would be so much more satisfying if they had multi-ball

Justin’s Review: “We’ll bring you the thrill of victory, the agony of defeat, and because we’ve got soccer highlights, the sheer pointlessness of a zero-zero tie.” – Sports Night

Man, I’ve been dying to use that quote for years. Ahh. Satisfying.

Soccer — “football” on the dark side of the world — is an obsession to many. An obsession fueled by an unfathomable love of a game where people crush their brain cells by headbutting a hard ball, a game where your average fan has a more-than-average chance of being stampeded to death by his peers. Maybe everyone else is on to the game in a way I haven’t figured out, much like those fuzzy 3D posters hiding a picture of a sailboat, but soccer fails to thrill me. That’s okay. The masses must have their opium, unless the opium is illegal, in which case it’s perfectly acceptable to substitute sweaty men running around with shoes styled after egg crates.

For those of you stymied by the title of Bend It Like Beckham, it is up to this humble reviewer to inform you that “Beckham” is not (like I originally thought) a town, brand of German cheese, or the final boss in Zelda. Actually, it’s this British soc-, er, football player who’s really hot stuff over there, especially when he mounts his Nimbus 2001 and catches the Golden Snitch.

While being touted as an Indian version of My Big Fat Greek Wedding, the only similarity that Bend It Like Beckham has is a strong ethnicity. Jessie (Parminder Nagra) is the younger daughter in a British-Indian family, kept from her passion of playing football by both gender and racial barriers. Greek Wedding relied hard on ethnic stereotypes for laughs, making its lead heroine embarrassed to be a part of that culture. However, Beckham’s nuclear family is proud of their heritage, and the only conflict and laughs stem from moms being moms, and kids being rebellious manipulative liars with hearts of gold. Just like hookers, bless their souls.

A budding player, Jessie is recruited by a local women’s team by Natalie Portman-lookalike Keira Knightley (in fact, Knightley played Portman’s character’s political double in The Phantom Menace). I do want to say that Knightley is much tastier than Portman, and I hope we see her return quite often to the screen. Finding acceptance on the team despite a disfiguring scar on her leg, Jessie’s life starts taking a turn for the better, particularly when she falls for a dreamboat coach. And her life gets worse as well, as she struggles to keep her secret life from shaming her family.

Part ethnic comedy and part romance, Bend It Like Beckham is also an exhilarating sports flick, with plenty of training montages and all the action of a soccer game edited down to 45 seconds worth of quick cuts. Just like in real life. While they never give any of the games proper coverage (thus robbing the audience of a typical sports movie’s rising tension), it’s not about soccer at the core. Instead, this is a satisfactory exploration of people figuring out what they’re meant to do, and be, in life. Jessie is torn between her family and her sport, her coach and her best friend, and making all of those mesh for a happy ending is going to take a LOT of cheerful music and well-timed coincidental moments.

Fortunately, Bend It Like Beckham is out to make you feel good and be slightly giddy by the film’s end, taking us on a light (but not extreme) rollercoaster of emotions. Strap yourselves in, ladies and gentlemen, and keep your hands and legs inside of the vehicle at all times. Unless you’re going for a block, of course.

Moms provide all the support you need


  • Between the British and Indian slang and accents, we didn’t understand a single word in this film
  • Beckham’s too high-and-mighty to come down to appear in the film
  • Jess wears number 7 for the Hounslow Harriers, the same number David Beckham wears for both England and Manchester United.
  • The Hounslow Harriers team doesn’t exists, but almost all the players are professional footballers.
  • Many of the wedding guests are relatives of director Gurinder Chadha and added realism by throwing themselves wholeheartedly into the scenes and treating the shoot as if it were a real wedding.
  • Is It Worth Staying Through End Credits? The closing credits features the cast and crew singing “Hot Hot Hot.”

Groovy Quotes

Joe: Where do you normally play?
Jess: In the park.
Joe: No.. I meant what position?

Paula: Just remember there’s a reason why Sporty Spice is the only one without a fellow!

Wedding Guest: Lesbian? I thought she was a Pisces.

Paula: So when the French Mustard is between the teriyaki sauce and the sea salt it’s offside?

Video Man: Eyes down. Don’t smile. Indian bride never smiles. You’ll ruin the bloody video.

Jess: She called me a Paki. But I guess that’s something you wouldn’t understand.
Joe: Jess, I’m Irish.

Paula: Get your lesbian feet out of my shoes!

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