Bend It Like Beckham was directed by Gurinder Chadha and co-stars Parminder K. Nagra (Jess Bhamra) and Keira Knightley (Jules Paxton), with Jonathan Rhys Meyers (Joe), Anupan Kher (Jess's father), and Juliet Stevenson (Jules's mother Paula) cast in important supporting roles. The film examines the struggles of two teenage girls to overcome parental resistance to their playing on the Hounslow Harriers league football (aka soccer) team. Their ultimate goal is to play for a college or university in the United States. Until a career-ending injury, their Harriers coach (Joe) played on a major professional team in England. Both Jess and Jules are attracted to their demanding but caring young coach. I view their feelings for him as being more substantial than teenage infatuation.
As is also true of so many other sports movies (e.g. Hoosiers), there is a Big Game to Be Won and, of course, dramatic tension increases as it approaches. Given the fact that her older sister's (Big Fat Indian) wedding is scheduled on the same day, will Jess be allowed to play? Will her friendship with Jules be re-established? With or wirhout Jess, will the Harriers win? If they do, how will that victory affect Joe's career opportunities as a player or coach? Will Jess and/or Jules be offered an athletic scholarship? The acting is consistently outstanding. Chadha brilliantly delineates the traditional values of Jess's family (especially her mother's), some of which differ significantly from those of Jules's family (especially her mother's). Each girl lives in two worlds, both of which compete for her loyalty. Jess and Jules struggle to keep their parents happy while working so hard to help the Harriers win the league championship. As is also true of Good Will Hunting, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, and Tortilla Soup, there is an abundance of humor in this film. Many moments are hilarious, including the not-to-be-missed final credits. The film is good-natured and warmhearted throughout, even when misunderstandings threaten relationships, notably Jess's friendship with Jules. This film has little (if any) social significance but offers wholesome, delightful entertainment of very high quality. How refreshing!
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