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Thursday, March 20, 2003

Soccer ma'ams

Movie: Bend It Like Beckham

Posted on Thu, Mar 20, 2003 at 4:00 AM

***1/2
Our Rating: 3.50

The PR gods have anointed this U.K. export as the season's Cinderella Hit That Must Happen, so you're likely going to end up seeing it no matter what anybody writes about it. Just for the record, "Bend It Like Beckham" is a familiar-but-pleasant confection set against the shifting mores of London's Indian community.

Teen rebel Jess Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) yearns to follow in the footballing footsteps of her hero, Manchester United's David Beckham. But her tradition-bound parents are determined to keep her on a matrimonial path like the one that's being pursued by her older sister. Jess joins a women's team anyway, indulging a personal outlet that takes her ever farther from her roots -- and into a fumbling romance with her hunky coach (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers).

Yes, you've seen every second of it countless times before; thanks to some slick filmmaking and heartfelt performances, you won't mind terribly watching it again. Nagra lends particular depth to her mostly reactive role. Yet despite the zeal with which it's delivered, "Bend It" goes on far too long, always game to tell the same joke twice (or thrice). Meanwhile, Keira Knightly, who plays Jess' teammate/rival, shows off a reed-thin frame that's bound to inspire much feminist tongue-clucking about unrealistic body images. I was more bothered that her sole acting gambit seemed to be opening her mouth as wide as it would go.

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