Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Soccer Rules

Bend It Like Beckham
Director: Gurinder Chadha
Cast: Parminder Nagra, Keira Knightly, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Archie Panjabi
Released: April 11, 2002 (UK); March 28, 2003 (US)
Viewed in theaters: April 26, 2003

I own this movie on DVD (I got a good deal on Ebay) and its been in my possession for at least a decade but I hadn't given any thought to it until recently when I started watching The Good Wife (I just finished season 3) and was looking up the cast on IMDb. I was curious to know such things as: What other shows has Will Gardner been in? (Sports Night). How old is Cary Argos because he looks like he's 12....he was 32 in the first season! And then I see that bad-ass investigator Kalinda Sharma (Archie Panjabi) played the older sister in Bend It Like Beckham and thought I would revisit it.

This was a small, independent movie that was really popular when it came out. As you can see, it was released in the UK (as it is a British film) a full year before it came to the States. I had heard good things about it and really wanted to see it, but it was only playing at a small theater that only shows foreign and independent movies (I saw it when it was only in select cities; it was later released nationally in August ). That was the first and only time I had ever been to that was OLD. The seats were very uncomfortable. I guess I am too spoiled by being able to recline in my movie theater chairs! But at least this movie wasn't that long. I was living in a small town when I saw Fellowship of the Ring and saw that in a really old, small theater with crappy seats. I should receive a medal for that! At least I enjoyed the movie! 

Bend it Like Beckham centers around Jess (Parminder Nagra) an Indian girl who lives in England with her older sister and parents who are very traditional in their culture and customs. She loves playing football (soccer to us yanks - okay, let's be honest...the rest of the world is right to call it use your feet more in that sport than you do in our American football!) and has a poster of David Beckham (even a person who doesn't know a thing about soccer knows who he is!) on her wall that she talks to everyday when she just needs to vent about something and can't talk to anyone else about it. 

She often plays with her guy friends in the park and is approached by Jules (Keira Knightley in her first major role) who tells her she should play for a  local team and invites her to try out for the Hounslow Harriers. The town they live in is called Hounslow; I had no idea what a harrier was until I looked it up: it's a bird. Who knew? Jules introduces Jess to the head coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers). Quick sidenote: Who thought it was a good idea to give the three main characters all one syllable names that begin with J?  Joe is impressed with Jess's soccer skills and she is invited to join the team, but when she asks her parents' permission, she is forbidden because her parents don't want her showing her bare skin in the uniform, but mostly it is because her father doesn't want her to get her hopes up in thinking she might be able to get a scholarship at a school to play only to be disappointed when she will be discriminated against which he thinks will happen to her because he has seen it firsthand, so he only wants to protect her which is understandable. 

Jess pretends to get a job so she can say she's at work when she's really playing soccer. She wears street clothes over her uniform and hides a bag with her athletic shoes in a bush outside her house. There's one scene where she has literally stepped out her front door...and her family is still inside...and unzips and takes off her hoodie to reveal her uniform. Good Lord, at least wait until you're out of sight from your house!  She is caught by her sister when her mother asks her to pick Jess up at work but when Kalinda gets there she learns that Jess doesn't work there. Even though she begs Kalinda not to say anything, she is still found out when her parents find out she bought new soccer shoes instead of shoes for her sister's upcoming wedding. Joe comes to talk to her parents saying how great a player Jess is and that she would be a great asset to the team, but her parents still refuse and they are angry with Jess for lying to them. This doesn't deter Jess and she even fabricates a story about staying with a friend for a few days so she can go to Germany to compete in the first international tournament for the Harriers. Now, everyone has heard of lying to one's  parents about sleeping over at a friend's house when they're really at another place they shouldn't be, but lying to your parents about being at a friend's house when you're in an entirely different country seems a bit extreme! But she keeps up the charade by calling her parents from her hotel room and telling them lies about her day. She probably would have gotten away with it except her father sees an article in the sports section about the soccer team heading to Germany and he puts two and two together and discovers Jess has lied...again.

Not only does Jess have to deal with her angry parents, but Jules is also angry with her and has stopped talking to her after she sees a drunk Jess almost kiss Joe at a nightclub, she gets jealous and angry. Jess is confused because Jules told her she didn't like Joe like that. And even though Jess didn't kiss Joe, Jules thinks she did. It's very typical high school drama.  

By far, the worst character is Jules' mother. They were obviously trying to make her the comic relief of the movie, but some of the things she said was just so stupid and narrow-minded, it made me cringe. Like Jess's parents, she also hates that her daughter plays soccer but only for the reason that it is unladylike and she is worried that Jules will never have a boyfriend because she thinks her waif of a daughter is going to get so bulky from playing soccer that no guy will want to be with a girl who is bigger than him. Then she overhears Jess and Jules arguing about what happened in Germany with Joe, but she misinterprets it as them having feelings for each other and thinks Jules is a lesbian (and when she finds out she isn't, she's very relieved, which I found very insulting for the gay community!) But Jules does admonish her for saying there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian. But probably the most cringe worth moment is when she drives Jules to Kalinda's wedding and sees Jules and Jess hug and freaks and rudely tells Jess to take her "lesbian feet" out of her shoes. (Jules gave Jess a pair of her shoes to wear to the wedding). It's like, geeze, lady, could you be any more homophobic? I guess you could say at least she's not racist as she was always very nice to Jess before she thought she was dating her daughter! 

The same day as her sister's wedding is also when a scout from the States is coming to see the girls play and potentially offer them scholarships. With her father's permission, she is allowed to play as long as she makes it back to the wedding. By this time she and Jules have made up. By the end of the movie, Jess and Joe are making out and Jules seems totally fine with it...okay. The scout offers them to come to California and play for Santa Clara (or as Keira Knightly pronounces it, "Santa Clah-rah!" I laughed so hard when she said that). At the airport when they're getting ready to leave, they see Becks and Posh so of course they think that's a sign for good things to come. End movie.

Speaking of Posh (my favorite was always Ginger, naturally!), Victoria Beckham has a song on the soundtrack (which I own because I love the song "Inner Smile"). I think it's played during the club's not very good or memorable and it's a good thing she's found success in her fashion line. Another former Spice Girl, Mel C (aka Sporty) also has a song on the soundtrack and it's actually pretty decent. A lot of the songs have an Indian influence (and made me think of the music in Slumdog Millionaire). There was even an Indian-inspired cover of "The Power of Love" (sadly not on the soundtrack), the Celine Dion power ballad, which ironically is also a cover although no one probably knows that because it is much more popular than the original! 

So if you're a fan of The Good Wife and have never seen it, you may get a kick of seeing Archie Panjabi in an entirely different role from Kalinda.  

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