A Look Back: Bend It Like Beckham

If you happen to be the parent of a British teenager – even one who’s eighteen – circa 2000, there are probably a few things that you would prefer he or she didn’t do behind your back. Such as

a) Over-consumption of recreational substances.

b) Certain acts with one’s boyfriend or girlfriend.

c) Visitation of certain places at certain hours.

d) Playing football (soccer to Americans) in the park with one’s bare legs showing.

Of course, choice d) only rings true if you are the daughter of two traditionally Sikh parents, who believe that modesty of attire and marriage to a proper young man are the fastest routes to happiness, as Parminder K. Nagra is in the movie “Bend It Like Beckham.” Her father (Anupam Kher) and mother (Shaheen Khan) only want what’s best for her, as most parents do, however, they’re soon to find that their wishes and their daughter’s are about to take a sharp diversion. While so far, Parminder (who is a heck of a talented athlete) has contented herself with the aforementioned football in the park (with boys no less!), after being spotted by fellow football fan, Jules, (Kiera Knightley), she lets herself be talked into trying out for a real all-women’s league, coached by the easy-on-the-eyes Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), who she crushes on (along with Kiera). Her expertise impresses Jonathan and the other players, and soon Parminder is faced with the choice of whether or not to disobey her parents – even more. Kiera’s conflict with her mother (Juliet Stevenson) is slightly different – her mother fears that Kiera’s passion for football means she must be a lesbian – though Juliet’s fears are unfounded, this sets the stage for a series of misunderstandings that affect the movie’s plot.

Eventually, both young women get a taste of adventure when they travel with their teammates to Hamburg to play in a match. Meanwhile at home, Parminder’s family is preparing for a big Indian wedding, and manage not to miss her too much when she takes off. But eventually, a cardinal Movie Law: “That Two Climactic Events Occurring in the Big Finale Must Be Held at the Same Time” occurs, and Parminder must choose between the wedding and a match. Ultimately, however, she finds the courage to tell her father how she feels – and learns that he opposed her because he himself experienced discrimination when he joined a cricket club. Unsurprisingly, it’s a happy ending, and no one puts Parminder in the corner, as in the final scene, she’s about to jet off to the US to accept a sports scholarship. “Bend It Like Beckham,” is a lot of fun, if you like movies about young people struggling to individuate themselves from their colorful clan. It might even inspire you to try and bend the next movable object you encounter on a walk. You never know.

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