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Friday, 12 April, 2002, 14:41 GMT 15:41 UK
Bend it Like Beckham scores highly
Jess (Parminder Nagra) with Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers)
Jess's coach persuades her she has serious talent
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By Neil Smith
BBC News Online
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He may be in the title, but David Beckham was not in the audience at Thursday's première of the new British comedy that bears his name.

It is unfortunate Bend It Like Beckham should open just as the nation reels from the news that the England captain might not make it to the World Cup finals.

Still, there is no such thing as bad publicity. And, for what it is worth, Beckham has only a peripheral role in director Gurinder Chadha's film.

Instead, the focus is on women's soccer and there really are not enough movies made about this exciting sport.

Keira Knightley as Jules (right) with her on-screen mother played by Juliet Stevenson
Juliet Stevenson (left) is hilarious as Jules' mum
Jess, played by Parminder Nagra, is an 18-year-old Indian girl from west London who would rather be in the park playing kickabout with the boys than stuck in the kitchen cooking chapattis.

The solution comes when she is invited to join the Hounslow Harriers, the local women's football team.

Soon Jess is best pals with her white team mate Jules, played by Keira Knightley, and romantically involved with dashing Irish coach Joe, played by Jonathan Rhys Meyers.

Alas, Jess' strictly traditional Punjabi family do not approve of her passion for the beautiful game - and when a vital match clashes with her sister's wedding, Jess must make a tough decision.

Extra time

Exploring the same culture clash territory as East Is East, Billy Elliot and Chadha's debut feature Bhaji on the Beach, Bend It Like Beckham is a winning fusion of comedy, action and drama.

Goodness Gracious Me fans will instantly warm to Jess' colourful relatives, while Juliet Stevenson is hilarious as Jules' snobbish mother.

She also gets the film's best line, chiding her daughter with the words: "There's a reason Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella."

The film - which boasts a generous two-hour running time - could have done with being trimmed down to a match-friendly 90 minutes.

And the extended climax bears all the hallmarks of writers who did not quite know how to end their movie satisfactorily.

But that won't spoil your enjoyment of an appealing slice of feel-good entertainment that, if nothing else, will take your mind off Beckham's foot.

Bend it Like Beckham is released in cinemas from 12 April

See also:

12 Apr 02 | Reviews
Bend it Like Beckham: Your views
12 Apr 02 | Film
Beckham on bench for première
12 Apr 02 | Football
England give Beckham time
19 Jun 01 | Music
Shaznay shooting first movie
11 Apr 02 | Football
FA backs Becks appeal
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