Prayer Focus
Movie Review

Bend It Like Beckham

MPAA Rating: PG-13 for language and sexual content

Reviewed by: Richard Schmitz

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1 hr. 52 min.
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Copyrighted. Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures

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Starring: Keira Knightley, Parminder Nagra, Jonathan Rhys Meyers, Anupam Kher, Archie Panjabi | Directed by: Gurinder Chadha | Produced by: Deepak Nayar, Gurinder Chadha, Deepak Nayer | Written by: Paul Mayeda Berges, Guljit Bindra, Gurinder Chadha, Paul Mayeda Burges | Distributor: Fox Searchlight Pictures (Produced in Great Britain)

“Bend It Like Beckham” is an enjoyable film which is something of a cross between Hoosiers and My Big Fat Greek Wedding. The plot’s central characters are a pair of teenage girls who meet through the love of playing soccer.

The film’s title is a reference to David Beckham, England’s No. 1 soccer star, and his ability to make a soccer ball curve (just as baseball pitcher does), hopefully, past the goalie.

Jess (played by Parminder Nagra) is the youngest daughter of an upper middle class—but very traditional—Punjabi Indian family settled in a pleasant London suburb. Jess has adept at soccer by playing with her older brother and his friends in the park across the street from their home. Jess is also a huge fan, keeping posters of Beckham on her wall.

Jess is spotted by Jules (Keira Knightley) who’s also devoted to the sport, albeit more formally. She plays on a girls’ club team, coached by the handsome Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers) and one day approaches Jess and invites her to try out for the Hounslow Harriers. Jess earns a spot on the team and the two become fast friends.

Both girls have issues to deal with at home, however, and this is where the film derives most of its humor. Jules’ mom (played by Juliet Stevenson) is constantly trying to “cure” her daughter of athleticism by trying a little too hard to interest her in shopping and fashion and going out with boys.

Jules’ dad, meanwhile, has set up a goal in the backyard and is perfectly happy to have the son he always wanted. Jess’ parents, meanwhile, are traditional, religious people putting the finishing touches on an arranged marriage involving Jess’ older sister Pinky (Archie Panjabi), who in turn is a shopaholic valley-girl-talking clubgoer once she’s beyond her parents’ gaze.

Jess’ mom grows concerned that her youngest daughter hasn’t yet learned to “cook a proper Indian meal” while her father (played by Indian film veteran Anupam Kher), an airline pilot, holds deep seated fears related to the way he was treated by White Britons years earlier when he held his own dreams of playing sports. Sternly, they demand that Jess give up playing soccer.

Copyrighted, Courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures
Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley in “Bend It Like Beckham” Photo: Christine Parry / Copyright Fox Searchlight Pictures

When a relative sees Jess and Jules hugging at a bus stop following a game, they are horrified and report to Jess’ parents, believing Jules is a boy because of her short hair. Likewise, Jules’ mom misinterprets their friendship in a different manner.

A few aspects of this film are incongruous with Christian values in the U.S. For example, the teenage soccer players are shown drinking beer on a trip to Germany. This is due to the fact that drinking ages are lower in Europe (the characters Jules and Jess are 18 or so). There is also a love interest involving the coach. In the case of this film, he’s portrayed as being not a lot older than the girls in question. There is reference to homosexuality, and some sexuality is briefly portrayed.

In my opinion, the positive aspects of this film far outweigh the negatives. The positive moral points of the film are love of family and the value of friendship. The film is well-put-together and a lot of fun.

Year of Release—2003

Viewer Comments
Neutral—This movie was totally split down the center for me. On one hand, it had good acting and production, a good story, and a good moral in the end. On the other hand, homosexuality was hinted at as being acceptable, there was more than enough cursing (American and European words), and there was a lust-driven scene or two. It was better morally than a lot of films, but it wouldn’t cut it as a family flick in my book.
My Ratings: [Average / 3]
—Reed Benson, age 20
Neutral—“Bend it Like Beckham” is a wonderful story about a young woman overcoming family pressures and following her dream of playing soccer competetively. This film really helped me to appreciate Indian culture in a whole new way. It also opened my eyes to how so many people mistreat and discriminate against others based on their ethnic or cultural background. It was painful to hear of how the girl’s father was discriminated against and verbally abused because of his culture…
My Ratings: [Good / 5]
—John, age 33
Positive—This was a cute film, with positive pictures of loving families. It showed a very traditional, loving Indian family with its traditional Indian beliefs and didn’t make fun of them or judge them for being different from the mainstream in British society. Rather, it had fun with the culture. It was also uplifting for the female viewer, who was shown that being a girl doesn’t have to mean being sentenced to a lifetime in the kitchen. What could have been caricatures were shown as well-rounded characters.
My Ratings: [Good/4]
—Mark Drought (non-Christian), age 51
Positive—I cannot believe how many people found this movie offensive. It’s great film, especially for young girls. And as far as the whole “promoting homosexuality” argument, it’s such a small part of the movie! And if you raised your children to know that it’s wrong, one opinion in a movie shouldn’t concern you so much. …It’s a delightful little movie about soccer and the trials of teen girls.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Melissa, age 18
Positive—I cannot believe how many people found this movie offensive. It’s great film, especially for young girls. And as far as the whole “promoting homosexuality” argument, it’s such a small part of the movie! And if you raised your children to know that it’s wrong, one opinion in a movie shouldn’t concern you so much. These kids will be out in the world someday where,—gasp!—they may work with or even be friends with homosexuals. Calm down. It’s a delightful little movie about soccer and the trials of teen girls.
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Melissa, age 18

Comments from young people
Negative—My family and I started to watch this movie, but the content bothered us so much that we didn’t finish it. The main character, Jess, deceives her parents after they forbid her to play soccer, and this is supported as the right thing to do. Bad language and sexual scenes are sprinkled throughout the movie. In the film, homosexuality is acceptable, and those who oppose it are portrayed as prejudiced people. It’s hard to know how much to ignore in a movie, but the basic themes in this one run so much against what I believe that the best thing to do was to turn it off.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Melissa, age 15
Negative—…I couldn’t believe how offensive it was. Two minutes into the movie and they were already cursing up a storm…
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—Kai (non-Christian), age 14
Negative—…time wasted. …offensive in many moral aspects. There was a lot of swearing and crude language, and homosexuality was regarded in two cases as acceptable. …the message that the film seemed to want to get across was that your parents don’t know what’s best for you, so do what you want, even if it means lying to and disobeying them. …some of the acting wasn’t great, the characters were undeveloped, the script was frequently very clich, and it the story seemed to drag on and on. I can’t think of any Biblical principles to be found throughout this film. I would never recommend it to anyone.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—J. Coulter, age 15
Neutral—this movie provided me with an educational insight into the culture of Jessminda, or Jess, a young Indian woman torn between tradition and her ambitions. Predictably enough, her ambitions win out. This is a soccer fan’s movie—the moves they pull are phenomenal, and the teamwork aspect is strongly highlighted; there is no “star player.” The only qualm I had with the plot was that both of the main characters fell for the coach (very predictable), but they worked it out nicely. I really enjoyed this film; it’s a feel-good film, and stresses pride in accomplishments, which is something to be stressed.
My Ratings: [Better than Average / 4]
—Mandy, age 16
Positive—Wow. I can’t believe I’m one of the few people to be giving this film a positive rating. This movie was very inspirational, especially if you are a soccer player like me, but some people might find the lesbian references to be “offensive”. I also saw that some people thought the language was “terrible,” but just because people say it or do it doesn’t mean YOU have to say it or do it. This movie is a must for any soccer fan (Keira Knightley was very pretty in this movie as well).
My Ratings: [Better than Average/5]
—Nathan Algren, age 15
Negative—I wanted to see this movie mainly because Keira Knightly is in it, but we were going to stop it early but ended up watching the whole thing. There was some language but mainly related around women’s private parts. Like a scene in a Victoria Secret type store and what they did and said was very offending. I would not recommend it. There was some comedy but most was around bad things. The general story was about a girl who chose to lie and deceive her parents so she could play soccer. I was disappointed in Keira Knightly for being in this movie after Pirates of the Carribean.
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/2]
—Brittany Marie Jensen, age 12
Negative—This is not a family film! It has lots of cussing in it! I was really disappointed too! I thought it would be good because my best friend said it was good, but she was wrong! I would not recommend this movie!
My Ratings: [Very Offensive/1]
—Lindsay, age 12