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Last Updated:  Monday, 10 March, 2003, 09:55 GMT
Bend it Like Beckham scores highly
By Neil Smith
BBC News Online

Jess (Parminder Nagra)
Jess has to hide her passion for the beautiful game
British comedy film Bend It Like Beckham opens in the US this week. The film was a huge success in Britain last year in the run-up to the World Cup finals.

Bend It Like Beckham opened in the UK just as the nation was reeling from the news that the England soccer captain might not make it to the World Cup finals due to a broken foot.

The foot went on to make a miraculous recovery, but 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.

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.

Jess (Parminder Nagra) with her team
Jess is torn between her family and her football
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 will not spoil your enjoyment of an appealing slice of feel-good entertainment that should keep women's football in the spotlight.

Bend it Like Beckham is released in the US on Wednesday.

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12 Apr 02 |  Entertainment

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