Girls vs. boys
Bend It Like Beckham is a festive comedy of multicultural manners
David Beckham, the superstar of English soccer, is the idol of Jess (Parminder Nagra) and Jules (Keira Knightley), two athletic young London women whose passion and skill at soccer put them at odds with their respective and very different family and cultural backgrounds.
Jess (short for Jessmindra), the younger daughter in a prosperous family of Indian immigrants, has a dauntingly traditionalist mother who insists that good daughters and soccer must never mix. Jules, also from a suburban middle-class family, has an image-conscious mother who worries that her daughter’s athleticism is making her less “feminine” and therefore less marriageable as well.
Both girls can run rings around their male buddies on the soccer field, but that is merely the most prominent element of the gender-bending and deflation of stereotypes in Gurinder Chadha’s high-spirited comedy of multicultural manners set in contemporary London. Bias and parental conflicts play roles with two other notable characters—Jess’s father, a frustrated cricket player, and the girls’ coach (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers), a prematurely retired player whose Irish background presents problems of its own.
Bend It Like Beckham will strike some as mere propaganda for PC liberalism, but the combination of feisty cast, vivid action sequences and lively doses of world pop in the soundtrack make for a charmingly festive comedy rather than any lecture-in-disguise, however big-hearted.