Bend It Like Beckham
By Rebecca Redshaw
Sports movies are a dime a dozen. Actually, sports movies about men and boys occupy entire sections at the video store. Sports films about women, on the other hand, are few and far between.
I did some online research and, with the exception of a few quality Made-for-TV efforts (BABE – not the pig, but the phenomenal Olympic athlete and golfer and SECOND SERVE – which quasi qualifies as a woman’s sports movie), there have been only three films of note where women wear cleats instead of high heels.
Check the vintage aisles for the 1952 Hepburn/Tracy romp PAT & MIKE. Then you might wander to the Alternative Lifestyles section and review PERSONAL BEST made in 1983. [LOVE & BASKETBALL, released in 2000, was a good film, too, but features men on the court, so it doesn’t technically qualify as a woman’s sports film.]
Now along comes BEND IT LIKE BECKHAM, a charming British film that somehow combines the triumph of ROCKY with the cultural conflicts of MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING. Directed and co-written by a woman, Gurinder Chadha, the story should ring true for any young girl (or boy) who struggles to follow a dream against parental wishes. The best part of BECKHAM is that it is filled with understandable characters of all generations.
Two young girls, Jess (Pariminder K. Nagra) and Jules (Keira Knightley) are talented soccer players who struggle with their passion for the game and the lack of familial understanding. Jess’ mother thinks a daughter’s mission in life is to cook Aloo Gobi, a traditional Sikh meal much more complicated than any Thanksgiving dinner. Jules’ mum interprets her daughter’s love of the game as a certain step toward the world of lesbianism and tries to steer her in the direction of push-up bras.
All the girls want to do is play the game.
There’s some fun footage of the final soccer match intercut with Jess’ sister’s wedding that leaves the viewer wondering which event requires the most endurance. Both look like a blast.
Here’s hoping it won’t take another twenty years for the movie industry to acknowledge that a good sports story knows no gender bias. We all want to get in the game.