movie film review | chris tookey

Bend It Like Beckham

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  Bend It Like Beckham Review
Tookey's Rating
5 /10
Average Rating
6.67 /10
Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightley, Jonathan Rhys Meyers
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Directed by: Gurinder Chadha
Written by: Gurinder Chadha and Guljit Biondra

Released: 2002
Origin: GB
Colour: c
Length: 100

A cheap, cheerful, unsophisticated comedy set in exotic Hounslow, about an Asian teenage girl (Parminder Nagra, pictured left) who has a crush on the divine David. But then, even more against the wishes of her traditionalist family, a white girl (Keira Knightley) and a good-looking Irish soccer coach (Jonathan Rhys Meyers, pictured right) encourage her to join a women's soccer team, and become a Beckhamesque provider of crosses and deadball winners.
Reviewed by Chris Tookey

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Gurinder Chadha's third film has the same easy, ramshackle charm of her first, Bhaji on the Beach. It operates adequately on the level of situation comedy with cute moments, and it's not unlike an elongated version of a sketch from Goodness Gracious Me. But I had hoped for more. This is not so much an elegantly taken, exquisitely judged shot by David Beckham, as a speculative punt upfield by Phil Neville. The film's desire to be middle-of-the-road popular entertainment without offending the Asian community leads to most of the awkward issues of racial identity, miscegenation and sexual identity being sidestepped rather than addressed. It's far more carefully designed to be politically correct, than it is to generate laughter or challenge attitudes. Missing are the deft touches, unexpected twists and moments of character revelation that might have raised it to the level of other British movies along similar lines, such as Billy Elliot or East Is East. The screenplay displays little freshness of thought, and the plot is heavily dependent on the sort of contrived coincidences and sign-posted misunderstandings that used to prop up many an old-fashioned Aldwych farce. I did smile quite a few times; and the central performances are attractive and likeable, even if they're not all that convincing. There are some sweet, surreal touches - like the moment our heroine imagines herself taking a free kick, and a group of formidable Indian matriarchs form themselves into a defensive wall. But too much of it has the air of catering to old-fashioned American racial prejudices about the white British. It's a big weakness that the best lines go to a minor character. Juliet Stevenson, funnier than I have ever seen her before, seems to be occupying her own private Mike Leigh film - and a classier one - as the white girl's middle-class mother worried that her daughter's interest in sport is prima facie evidence of rampant lesbianism. With sharper dialogue and more adventurous direction, this might well have scored heavily with the British public. It's okay as long as you don't go expecting the cinematic equivalent of Manchester United playing inspired, one-touch football. This is more like Charlton Athletic narrowly scrambling a home win. It's amiable, everyone involved tries hard, and I wish it well. However, I fear it doesn't quite have the class to cope with international competition.
(I was proved wrong on this. It was a hit in many countries of the world, including the US)

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