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Bend it Like Beckham
7 out of 10 stars
opens today (March 12)

We’ve all seen the story before: minor sports figure overcomes great obstacles to achieve fame, victory and the love of their dreams. But rarely is the story so refreshingly exuberant and even rarer does it depict an Indian woman as its lead character. Gurinder Chadha directed, produced and co-wrote the screenplay for Bend It Like Beckham, her third feature film.

Newcomer Parminder Nagra does a brilliant job playing Jess whose penchant for soccer catches the attention of Jules (Keira Knightley). Jules invites her to try out for the all-girls London league. She subsequently introduces Jess to soccer coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) who takes her under his wing as well as into his charming good graces. With the new addition to their team, the Hounslow Harriers are sure to sweep the finals.

Of course, there’s only one problem, her mum (played by Shaheen Khan) just wants Jess to act like a proper Indian girl, and takes her aside at every opportunity to teach her the intricacies of Aloo Gobi and how to play up her assets to attract a good Indian man. Jess is forced into a double life: that of obedient daughter and secretly stellar soccer player.

Meanwhile Jules must deal with the insistence of her own mother (played by Juliet Stevenson) that she should dress prettier and give up sports if she wants to nab a bloke: “Why do you think Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella?” Mother even begins to question the level of Jules’s and Jess’s friendship when she overhears an argument (Think "Three’s Company"). To further complicate matters, Jess and Jules both fall for their lovely Irish coach Joe.

Comical misunderstandings and coming of age choices aside, the story charges along quickly and effortlessly with rich colorful aplomb. Bend it Like Beckham is somewhat predictable, but don’t let that detract from the charismatic acting and handsome cinematography.

Girls will appreciate having another female idol to look up to in a typically male dominated film genre.

(Side note: Apparently the film sparked such great interest among girls in India that the country finally launched an all girls league in January. Way to bend it like Beckham!)

-Kate Suyong Bryant

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