Bend It Like Beckham (2002)
Main cast: Parminder K Nagra (Jess Bhamra), Keira Knightley (Jules), Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (Joe), Anupam Kher (Mr Bhamra), Archie Panjabi (Pinky), Shaznay Lewis (Mel), Frank Harper (Alan), Juliet Stevenson (Paula), Shaheen Khan (Mrs Bhamra), and Ameet Chana (Tony)
Director: Gurinder Chadha

Bend It Like Beckham is a Punjabi-flavored light-hearted comedy from Gurinder Chadha. If you are a new generation Punjabi in England who often are bewildered by your more conservative elders, you will have a lot to laugh and cry with the characters in this movie. The colors of the Punjabi culture of this movie are amazing, by the way, and is a treat to any viewer.

Jess Bhamra and her sister Pinky are such girls. They have adapted well into their British environment, but their lifestyles clash with that of their parents' and elders', and it's not easy balancing both worlds. For Jess, she just wants to play soccer. She often sneaks around to play with the mates of her friend Tony, but when one day a girl Jules invites her to try out for the local girls' team, she cannot say no. Jess' sneaking around her parents' back soon collides with her sister Pinky's wedding preparations with humorous and cringe-inducing consequences. Things don't look good when Jess falls for her slightly older coach Joe. Joe is Caucasian, Irish, and he's a soccer player. Strike three. Jules also like Joe a lot. Strike four. What is a Beckham-fangirl like Jess to do?

Look, this movie is corny, I admit it. It is filled with corny lines, the bulk going to the unfortunate Jonathan Rhys-Meyers. Rhys-Meyers look amazingly hot with his neatly-cut hair and startlingly clear eyes, but in his rare "normal guy" role, he's stuck with lines straight out of a Chicken Soup book. No wonder he looks sheepish saying them, and probably that's why he has not that much chemistry with Jess either. The Jess/Jules/Joe love triangle is trite and predictable, and in fact, the whole family dynamics of the Bhamras are predictable too (everyone is hugs and kissies at the end).

But what makes this movie a sheer delight? The actors and actresses are having a ball, and it shows. All of them are bloody good, from the main stars to the supporting players, and their exuberant screen presence shines. The dancing, the wedding, and the oh-so-recognizable generation gap all have me smiling, and Pinky's wedding is really a scene to watch, savor, and rejoice. The practically evil use of the catchiest and most infectious British and Indian songs can only make things a little more heavenly: when Texas' madly infectious Inner Smile appears at a teasing scene between Joe and Jess, I'm a goner. I sing along and laugh, and I'm not alone in the theatre to do so.

Such is the magic of this movie. It's cheesy, corny, and it probably sucks corn, but it also has the ability to infect its joie de vivre on its audience. A plus is its humorous yet respectful treatment towards homosexuality, culture differences, and generation gap, so yeah, while this can be called a clumsy, underbaked movie aimed at the Sweet Valley High fans, there's no denying that this movie has that special something that makes me feel so good inside.

Bend It Like Beckham makes cheese look like the sweetest of bliss. And for that, I'm willing for forgive anything and embrace its wholesome goodness. You go, Jess!

Rating: 89

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