A review of “Bend It Like Beckham” by Jeanne Aufmuth

 

Stars: ***

Rating: PG-13 for language

Run Time: 1 hour, 50 minutes

 

 

          They say it’s the next “My Big Fat Greek Wedding”, and they may be right.  “Beckham” is a warm and fuzzy crowd pleaser that holds its clichés close to its heart.

          Spotlight: the Bhamra household, a traditional Punjabi home in the outskirts of London.  Eldest daughter Pinky (Archie Panjabi) wants marriage and children, and all the conventions that entails.  But teenaged Jess’s (Parminder Nagra) sole interest is football (soccer).  She worships at the shrine of legendary English footballer David Beckham, and utilizes every spare minute playing pick-up with the neighborhood guys.

          In the grand tradition of “Monsoon Wedding” and “Real Women Have Curves”, orthodox rules supreme. Jess’s Sikh parents do not approve of a girl playing sports, or shirking the feminine focus of baking perfectly round chapattis and seeking a suitable husband.  Jess is a hopeless homemaker, juggling the iceberg lettuce she should be chopping up for the salad.

          The domestic landscape changes when a local player (Kiera Knightley as Jules) spots Jess in action on the pitch.  Jess is recruited for the local women’s amateur squad, immediately impressing the hunky coach (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers as Joe) with her imposing skills and determination.  When the team is invited to an important tournament in Germany, Jess uses her burgeoning arsenal of teenage wiles to scheme her way out of the house and onto the team bus.

          A classic love triangle spices up the action off the field.  Joe finds himself falling for Jess, but Jess is uncomfortably mindful of the fact that Jules has similar feelings for their coach.  Jess’ dad (Bollywood star Anupam Kher) suffers similar anxieties, torn between his conformist notions and a tender sympathy for his youngest daughter’s passionate enthusiasm.  The conflict is timed to blow when the Big Game comes face to face with Pinky’s Big Wedding Day.

“Beckham” lays an affably light veneer on a somber issue: a modern young woman of indomitable spirit forced to choose between her family’s culture and chasing her dream. Nagra is a real delight, not to mention a perfectly healthy role model.  Enlightening, wish-fulfilling entertainment for the whole family.