Bend It Like Beckham
It's all so corny, so true, and so beautiful.
By John DeSando, WCBE's "It's Movie Time"
When "Bend It Like Beckham's" heroine, Jess (Parminder K. Nagra), exclaims, "Anyone can do aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?" I figured I might be in for an interesting evening, given how little I know about Indian cuisine and how much less about British soccer (football). I didn't learn about either from this fuzzily friendly film, but I came away with a much better understanding of the Indian/Brit culture clash and the place or not of women in that struggle.
Simply put, Jess's traditional Sikh parents now living in London want her to forget football and eventually get married to a nice Indian boy. Jess has other ideas, namely bending gender and culture to the will of her exuberant teen self, who idolizes the real ball bender, star footballer David Beckham. Yes, although "Monsoon Wedding" and "My Big Fat Greek Wedding" come immediately to mind, this film goes headlong into the culture clash with gusto because wedding is far from Jess's mind.
In a sense, "Bend It" is the prequel to the other 2 films as it chronicles the strong Indian hold on a young girl and the skepticism of any culture about a girl becoming a prominent athlete.
You could write the plot--it's as cliched as any other teen/culture film. Yet its sweet struggle of growing up is inherent in the film's tone and tempo. When mom accuses the female footballers of "displaying [their] bare legs to complete strangers," you know the struggle is with old-fashioned Indian values confronting modern feminism and spiced with the timeless allure of athletic young women taking it off for the old glory of competition, not middle-aged men. When Jess refuses to romance her coach and be disloyal to her best friend at the same time, there is a goodness separating this comedy from all the others.
Feel good you will; think about adults versus teens, tradition versus modern you must. It's all so corny, so true, and so beautiful. I think it's called "life."
John DeSando vice-chairs the board of The Film Council of Greater Columbus and co-hosts WCBE's "It's Movie Time," which can be heard streaming at www.wcbe.org on Thursdays at 8:01 pm and Fridays at 3:01 pm.