Bush and Beckham

It is the eve of war, and the mood of the world is sombre. Some developments

have been heartening. In the UK, the resignation of Robin Cook and today’s debate

on going to war have shown the world British parliamentary democracy at its

very best: lucid, heartfelt speeches coming together to create a compelling

and informative debate.

In Newsweek, Fareed Zakaria has published a 5,500-word cover

story (surely some kind of record) which is required reading for all neoconservative

hawks and any Americans who want to understand why the rest of the world hates

them more than it hates Iraq. Zakaria supports

the war, which makes this indictment of US unilateralism all the more stinging.

Other developments have been much less heartening. George W Bush’s address

to the nation on Monday night was one of the most infuriating, depressing and

inarticulate speeches I can recall hearing. While Bush might personally have

his moral clarity, he does a dreadful job in conveying it to the rest of us,

veering wildly instead from an accusation that Saddam is bugging weapons inspectors

(for this we’re going to war?) to his increasingly-desperate attempt

to connect Saddam to Al-Qaeda.

As for me, after sitting through that overlong speech and staring for far too

long at Bush’s weird left eyebrow, I felt like slitting my wrists. My mood was

about as low as I can ever remember it being, so there was only one thing for

it: escape into a fantasy world.

Thus it was that I found myself at the wonderful Landmark

Sunshine Cinema at 9:55 on a Monday night, a bag of popcorn in hand, ready

for a light, brainless feel-good comedy. And I have to say that Bend

It Like Beckham did not disappoint.

There’s certainly no fear that Bend It is going to deviate in any

way from the rules of the multiethnic-comedy genre. The generation gaps, the

mutual incomprehension, the way that everybody learns a valuable lesson at the

end: watching this film is like wearing a really comfy old jumper. And since

it’s an English comedy, there’s a certain unfinished quality to it as well:

it could have done with a bit more work. Some of the expository dialogue hits

the ground with a clunk and stops the film dead ("I hope I get the two

As and a B I need to get into University"), the editing is sloppy in parts

(Keira Knightley’s reaction shot when a teammate admits to liking casual sex

is way, way too late), and the whole film would benefit from having

a good 20 minutes shaved off its 112-minute run time.

But this film is English, so it has its good points as well. Among them are

some fantastic one-liners which weren’t focus-grouped out in pre-production,

as well as a completely shameless soundtrack which even goes so far as to use

the Pavarotti Nessun Dorma recording from the 1990 World Cup at the

(entirely predictable) climax of the film. Also completely shameless is Bend

It‘s overindulgence in long sequences of fabulous-looking and decidedly

underdressed girls (and a few boys) which serve no purpose whatsoever other

than titillation. I loved them. The more bare skin that Keira Knightley displays

in a movie, the better that movie becomes: this, surely, is an immutable law

of cinema.

Knightley, in fact, is so magnetically good-looking that she easily eclipses

Jonathan Rhys-Meyers (remember him, glammed up in Velvet Goldmine or

hanging upside down and naked in Titus?) who has grown up alarmingly

and is no longer quite the sex symbol he was. Both of them, unfortunately, are

much better-looking than the film’s lead, Parminder Nagra, a young actress making

her feature-film debut. Nagra does, however, make it up with some extremely

impressive fancy footwork on the soccer field.

There is a plot, of sorts. Jess (Nagra) is discovered playing football in the

park by Jules (Knightley), who introduces her to the local girls’ football team,

coached by Joe (Rhys-Meyers). Both of the girls purportedly fancy the boy (who,

being their coach, is forbidden to get involved with them), but judging by their

behaviour when together, one imagines that Jules’s mother is not far off the

mark when she comes to the conclusion that their friendship is a little bit

more than just friends. All three leads have problems with their parents. Jess’s

sister is getting married… but you’re bored at this point. The plot is pretty

much irrelevant, the stereotypes are broadly (if fondly) drawn, and the film

is generally propelled forward by little more than its own good humour.

I have a feeling that this little film set in Hounslow could have arrived on

these shores at just the right time. It did very well in its first weekend of

release, and if Americans have any idea what these people are talking about,

they will surely love it at least as much as I did. When I left the cinema,

I was in an infinitely better mood, and while that won’t make George Bush change

his mind about invading Iraq, it will at least make my tiny little corner of

the world a teensy bit happier.

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7 Responses to Bush and Beckham

  1. Michelle says:

    Seemed to be the buzz during the Oscars – that people wanted razzle dazzle entertainment, which Chicago delivers. I’m almost certain that’s why it won. Pure escapism. Bend It was a sillier version of escapism, it was like putting on your old wooly socks and reading US magazine. It’s wacky and silly. There was formula after formula, but who cares sometimes! If the jokes are good, I’m normally IN.

  2. Jessica says:

    Nagra looks fine, and shes a good actress…ya’ll are just being racist beacause shes Indian, and no white!!!!!!

  3. trixie says:

    What?! Nagra is gorgeous. Jesus.

    Not to detract from her acting abilities, you know, but she really is beautiful.

  4. Ray says:

    This movie was great!!! Your review really sucks!I notice the few bad reviews I find try to call it predictable and pick at it’s ethnicity.

    By the way, I love Nagra’s dark mysterious beauty; for example her eye’s are absolutely hypnotic, and she’s quite fit! Not skinny like the other two. What planet do you come from anyway?!

  5. William Blank says:

    Mr. Flix is a stupid racist pig. Ms. Nagra is a very smart, sexy and simple person/actress, and she alone, other than the great directing, made this movie. I wish there were more Indian actresses in Hollywood, not Bollywood, to make great movies. Thank You, Parminder, you are very talented and I enjoy your work. Bill

  6. Human says:

    Nagra looks fine, and shes a good actress…ya’ll are just being racist beacause shes Indian, and no white!!!!!!

  7. Davina says:

    yea it’s a good movie because i think that we’v learn somfing frm it like respecting parent or others…….some people don’t like dis movie bt i fnk its good mabe so yea i beta go man it was nice watchn dis movie its kool some people enjoy it not like others../i fink dat their relationship between jess, jules, joe..they made a nice frndship…lol…thank you…the characters were good…

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