Film Review: Bend It Like Beckham

It’s been a while since I last watched Bend It Like Beckham, in fact, I almost want to say that I haven’t seen it since its initial big screen release 12 years ago. But I could be wrong? I do remember though, finding a film that was simple yet charming and which, while never demanding to be viewed, always held enough fondness that I don’t look back with hatred.

And so, with it now available on Curzon’s On Demand Home Cinema service, it seemed a decent choice for a film to throw away an evening to, so-to-speak. A typical British comedy that does exactly what it sets out to without attempting to really rock the boat.

Retro Technology - Bend It Like Backham

However, the first thing that really hit me was how badly the film has dated. Everything about it just screams of a standard definition, by gone era. I think the problem is that at the turn of the millennium, life was just slower, simpler, more analogue. Mobile phones were the size of bricks, television was broadcast through cathode ray not liquid crystal and sport was still about the game rather than the money. And because the film is set in the here and now, in 2002, it’s forever shackled to that time. It cannot age, it can simply remind you of how life used to be.

But, as time passes, that reminder serves to harm the film rather that aid it, because director Gurinder Chadha has managed to capture real life with such realistic clarity, it now feels totally disconnected to the world we live in. And sadly, because it’s a timeframe I’ve lived through, I remember, it doesn’t carry the romance or beauty of older period settings. Keira Knightley running around in 1902 is more amorous and enjoyable than Keira Knightley running around in 2002.

And talking of Knightley, it seems a good time to mention the cast. Parminder Nagra, as the movies central character, really does steal the show and manages to capture the emotions of her situation brilliantly. Granted, she’s never going to win an Oscar, and those emotions aren’t overly taxing but in comparison to Jonathan Rhys Meyers, it’s outstanding. Meyers manages to appear emotionless, angry and agressive no matter what he is trying to convey, and sadly for large, large parts of the film appears simply dead behind the eyes.

Keira Knightley & Parminder Nagra - Bend It Like Beckham

Moving on to Knightley though, she’s never really asked to be anything other than “happy go lucky 17 year old”. Which when you are a happy go lucky 17 year old means it’s not a role that will prove too taxing, and doesn’t. It also helps that she looks her age, appearing to be the independent British girl rather than the glamorous Hollywood star, and therefore, is more acceptable and believable than I find her now. She fits this film better than more recent efforts like Begin Again and Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.

Sadly though, the film is completely let down by it’s plot and it’s script. To start with it’s plot: it’s clichéd, predictable and choreographed to levels that are beyond obvious. If you were given an outline and asked to pad out how you expect the story to travel, I’d be surprised if you got anything wrong. And that is such a shame because, at it’s heart there is a wonderful tale of cultural differences, racial stereotyping and public expectation that had the potential to really entertain and inform but is let down so badly, by the weak and limp path it treads between points.

And this lack of strength is proven by the script. There are times when the language used feels like it’s been written by a child who’s just learnt to read. It’s overly simplistic, non description and plain. It’s a strange situation where on occasions, even though you understand the point that’s being made, because the language used is so basic, it almost takes you an extra second to process it. For it to register.

I said at the beginning of this review that I wasn’t sure if I had seen Bend It Like Beckham since it’s initial cinematic release and I now think I might know why, while it’s an inoffensive and enjoyable tale, it’s just a bit too middle of the road, too safe. It’s the kind of movie that when you see it on in the TV Listings, you ponder watching for a second, because realising there is something else, at the same time, that’s better.

6 out of 10 stars (6 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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