Bend it Like Beckham

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Review clips
* “Has an energetic zeal that is hard for even the most jaded, seen-it-all audience member to resist for very long.”
— Rob Thomas, CAPITAL TIMES (MADISON, WI)

* “A smart, lively and altogether warmhearted dramatic comedy that blends tradition and modernity on screen as adroitly as teenage Jess does in her irresistibly complicated life.”
— Kenneth Turan, LOS ANGELES TIMES

* “Sure, [it] wallows in cliches … but it does so with such a bright, energetic spirit that you forgive pretty much everything.”
— Sean Means, SALT LAKE TRIBUNE

“While there’s no denying that Beckham is plowing some pretty well-plowed fields, it still succeeds on its own good-natured merits, brimming with the joy of life and its colorful diversities — along with the intoxicating joy of filmmaking.”
— Ken Hanke, MOUNTAIN XPRESS (ASHEVILLE, NC)

British ‘Beckham’ scores, with fine assist from its cast
By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
Culture and sports never have clashed as winningly as in Bend It Like Beckham. A coming-of-age tale set against the backdrop of the Indian community in London and amid the world of women’s’ amateur soccer, Beckham is a rare amalgam of funny, sweet, action-packed and inspiring.

Jess (Parminder Nagra) idolizes soccer player David Beckham, but her Sikh parents just want her to learn to cook aloo gobi.
By Christine Parry, AP

And even more impressively, it never veers into treacly turf.

Most movies aspiring to such a full slate might feel a bit contrived or at least schematic, but Beckham is as smooth as the moves of David Beckham, the British soccer star after which it is named.

Kudos go to writer/director Gurinder Chadha and the startlingly accomplished performances of a young and largely unknown cast, led by luminous newcomer Parminder Nagra.
Review of the movie

Bend it Like Beckham
( out of four)

The camera loves Nagra, and the audience can’t help but root for her character, Jess, a sensible teen, loving daughter and passionate athlete. Jess’s traditional Sikh Punjabi family would like nothing more than to host Jess’ big, fat Indian wedding. Jess’ older sister, Pinky (Archie Panjabi), is closer to her parents’ ideal. She is engaged to a young Indian man and willingly accepts a more traditional role.

Jess meets up with Jules (16-year-old Keira Knightley), who watches her play soccer (football, of course, to Brits) in the park with a group of Indian boys and encourages her to try out for a team. Jess tries to broach it with her family, but they dismiss it out of hand. She ends up sneaking out for practice and games (while nosy family friends assume she’s sneaking out with a boy).

Meanwhile, she strikes up a close friendship with Jules and a budding romance with her handsome soccer coach, Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers). There are several small crises on her path to independence, including her team’s most important match (in which an American scout is in attendance) scheduled for the same date as her sister’s wedding.

The juxtaposition between the fast-paced plays on the soccer field and the color-drenched, music-infused wedding party is a highlight of this captivating film. The wedding scenes recall the joyous festivities and sensuality of Monsoon Wedding. And the story of an appealing teen girl falling in love for the first time and struggling between her immigrant family’s directives and the need to make her own way is reminiscent of last year’s charming Real Women Have Curves. But there’s nothing derivative about it. Unlike the mega-hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding, this film doesn’t reduce an ethnic community to stereotypes. And the conclusion, though upbeat, is not predictable. Be sure to stay for the rousing closing credits.
* * * * *
4/7/2003 10:56 PM
BEYOND WORDS
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View trailer for Bend It Like Beckham

 

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More on Beckham
Review: British Beckham scores, with fine assist from cast
Beckham, like Greek Wedding, is starting off strong
Parminder Nagra bends the rules in Beckham

Parminder Nagra bends the rules for ‘Beckham’
By Claudia Puig, USA TODAY
Parminder Nagra had never kicked a soccer ball before starring as a soccer-crazed teen in Bend It Like Beckham.
To prep for her role, Bend It Like Beckham star Parminder Nagra practiced with England’s only professional girls soccer team.

But by the time the cast and crew went to Germany for a key competition in the film, “we literally had become a really solid team,” says Nagra, a native of England, where soccer is called football. “We got so into it once that (director) Gurinder (Chadha) stormed across the pitch, shouting, ‘Cut! Cut! Have you forgotten this is a movie?’ ”

The comedy-drama Bend It Like Beckham has convinced audiences and the movie industry that 27-year-old Nagra is the real thing. American movie audiences can see Nagra in August in Ella Enchanted, a modern-day Cinderella story, with Anne Hathaway and Cary Elwes. And Nagra was in Los Angeles recently meeting about other roles.

Kiss and tell: ‘He was great’

For Parminder Nagra, one of the big perks of playing 17-year-old Jess, a girl torn between her traditional Punjabi upbringing and her dream of playing soccer, was the chance to canoodle with Irish heartthrob Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Velvet Goldmine), who plays her coach and love interest.

Says Nagra: “The top question I always get is, ‘What was it like to kiss Jonathan Rhys-Meyers, you lucky cow!’ What can I say? He was great to kiss. Good lips. It was embarrassing, actually. The first time we had that kissing scene, I actually forgot my lines, I got so lost in it.

“There was silence all around me and I thought ‘Why is everything so quiet?’ I looked around and then said, ‘Oh, it’s me, isn’t it?'”

The rousing British film has made $50 million worldwide, $20 million of that in Great Britain. Now on 117 screens in the USA, it has made $2.6 million in four weeks, with a whopping $10,001 per screen average. It goes into more theaters April 18.

Bend It Like Beckham refers to British soccer star David Beckham’s trademark ability to kick a ball and have it curve in an arc around the goalie. The title also metaphorically represents the challenges women face in male-dominated areas such as sports, often forced to bend the rules to achieve their goals.

“It stuns me how the film is doing and how people respond to it,” Nagra says. “In London there was an article about all these girls bending it like Beckham, and in India there’s this big wave of girls playing football. Wow! I can’t believe a movie’s done this!”

To prep for the role, Nagra practiced with England’s only professional girls soccer team, the Fulham Girls.

“Simon Clifford, the choreographer/trainer, said, ‘Some (professional) footballers can’t even do some of the moves you’ve been doing,’ ” Nagra says.

She and co-star Keira Knightley endured months of arduous training to get them in soccer shape.

“We went home aching,” she says. “There were points where she and I would look at each other and ask, ‘Why are we doing this exactly?’ ”

But despite aches and bruises, Nagra was not to be daunted about performing the soccer moves herself.

At one point, “I had to knee the ball up and hit the goal. I told (the filmmakers), ‘I will get it. You must allow me to get it.’ They said, ‘You’ve done it five or six times.’ Eventually I did get it, and the relief almost made me want to cry. Then I woke up the next morning with these huge black bruises on my legs. But it was proving to myself that I could do it.”

Raised outside London by Punjabi parents who had emigrated from India in the 1960s, Nagra began acting at 17, mostly in theater and television productions. Unlike the deeply traditional parents in the movie who are against their daughter pursuing an unusual path, Nagra’s family was supportive.

“I told my mom I was off to London, and she never said, ‘Are you crazy? You have no qualifications.’ She couldn’t really understand what I was doing, but she just said, ‘Fine. I hope it works out,’ ” Nagra says.

At times, Nagra doubted her own choice.

“I was so headstrong,” she says. “At times, I couldn’t understand what I was doing. I just knew I needed to stick with it. It was instinct, and that’s what I’ve always relied upon.”

Her instincts have proved reliable so far.

“I meet people who have seen (Beckham) 15 times. The character I played is almost becoming like a bit of a cult figure. People tell me, ‘I want to be like Jess.’ Knowing you’re part of that is really exciting. If I can inspire someone to go in a positive way and pursue a dream, it can only be good.”

Despite her background in theater and TV, the subtlety of movie acting is her passion.

“I can pretty much tell the whole story through my eyes. Some of the best actors that you watch don’t have to physically do too much.”

Did Beckham make a soccer player of her?

“God, no,” she says with a laugh. “That’s what I like about acting. When you’re preparing for a role, you do your research, and the bonus is you get to learn these skills. Now, it’s on to whatever the next thing is I have to learn.”

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