Bend it like Beckham 5*
Jess: If I can't tell you now what I want, then I'll never be happy whatever I do.
Her dad: I don't want her to make the same mistake .. of accepting situations. I want her to fight.
This was the start of my love affair with "The Beautiful Game" of futbol in Europe, soccer in North America. Preview. Full. As curry is more than a dry powder - complex blend of coriander, cumin, tumeric, and more - so does this film have snickers and guffaws of the true cheer tear snort drop-jaw flavor. If you know anything about soccer/ futbol, you'll know more than I did at first viewing.
The title refers to the magical curve that directs soccer balls around opponents, directly into the goal for historically high-scoring Beckham, hunky hot media star who raised profile of "The Beautiful Game" worldwide. Players have weight-lifter strength, long-distance runner stamina, high-wire balance, martial arts flexibility, balletic fluidity, gymnastic acrobatics, synchronized team work, individual brain work, ever-so masculine bodies straining shorts and tops, This film has vision, character, morals, fun, fast family-grade action and script.
The heroine is first-generation English Jasminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder Nagra - ER, Ella Enchanted) desperately hiding her futbol talent from her family. Their immigrant colorfully costumed culture from India takes visual supremacy. Her best mate (aka pal in Brit-speak) is Juliette "Jules" Paxton (Keira Knightley, yes, a year before her Pirates of the Caribbean fame at 16). Jules' mother Paula (Juliet Stevenson) is always in ultra-feminine fluffy pink, and assumes lesbian daughter in panic after overhearing only part of a conversation. Outfits may be dated. Who notices?
Jess' futbol talent is hidden from her family, known only to her cousin Tony (Adi Ferreira, EastEnders) who "really likes Beckham". Her elder sister's marriage is their focus. The teen wants to attend university and play futbol. Her dad (Anupam Kher), a pro-level cricket player, gave up the sport after prejudiced whites black-balled him from their club. Her fight for identity slots this tale into the "coming of age" niche.
Jules' father Alan (Frank Harper) raised her as a futbol fan. His wife blames him for the tomboy nature of their only progeny. She despairs of passing on her passion for fashion, everything curly girly.
The eavesdropper mistakes Jules' jealous anger at Jess' near kiss with their coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys Meyers - Tudors, Mission Impossible 3) "you knew I fancied him" for a lesbian rejection. I think the humor is just as funny today, in absurd politically over-correctness (differently advantaged? really).
Jess' dad has a secret. The superb cricket player quit after a white club denied him entrance. "Who was hurt? I was. I want more for my daughter. Two daughters happy in one day, what more could a father want?" The scene where he "cannot stand her long face" and lets her sneak out of her sister's giant wedding reception party to win the last half-hour of the final and joint scholarships to "America" was cut for TV.