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Saturday, June 28, 2014

Bend It Like Beckham

So, how many of you are watching the FIFA World Cup this year?  Anybody?

Well, okay.  I admit that I haven't been.  I can't say that I've ever gotten into the whole idea of watching soccer on television, hoping that Portugal, England, and the United States can defeat Uruguay, Venezuela, and Ireland in a fierce game of "football".  But to be fair, I am an equal opportunity sports snob as I don't keep track of baseball, basketball, football, golf, and NASCAR either.  I may watch the occasional hockey game.  That's it though.

That said, I'm amazed at how big the game of soccer really has gotten.  I knew that in the United Kingdom, people responded to the finals of a soccer tournament the same way that Americans celebrate the Super Bowl, but it's now beginning to make its way into North America with hundreds of thousands of people being bitten by the soccer bug.

I wonder if the sudden interest in soccer in America might have anything to do with this guy down below.

I'm sure most of you know this guy by heart.  This is David Beckham.  For over two decades, he played professional soccer (retiring in 2013).  He's also the husband of former Spice Girl Victoria Beckham, the father of four children, and part-time underwear model.  But, I only added that last part in because the ladies who might be reading this will only remind me later on that I forgot that detail.

Anyway, I would say quite a few Americans began to develop a sudden interest in soccer when David Beckham signed on to become a player of the Los Angeles Galaxy team in July 2007.  He played on the team for just five years, but his skills, charisma, and general passion for the game of soccer certainly grabbed people's attention.

And certainly, soccer is filled with a lot of excitement - a lot more excitement than I thought initially with soccer players getting suspended for biting people on the field, and Ann Coulter making claims that soccer is destroying America.

(I would argue that Ann Coulter is doing more to destroy her own country, but that's another can of worms that for now will remain closed.)

Anyway, why am I talking about soccer in this blog?  And, why did I bring up David Beckham in this blog?  Well, today's Saturday Night at the Movies feature combines soccer, David Beckham, and a young girl who wants nothing more than to become the next big soccer star, even though she comes from a family which believes that female soccer players are about as taboo as pornography, prostitution, or illegal drugs.

But, she can't help herself.  She just wants to bend it like Beckham.

Say...that's the name of the movie that we're going to be looking at.  "Bend It Like Beckham"! 

This film is unique in that it had not one, but two premiere dates.  The movie was first released in the United Kingdom on April 12, 2002.  It makes perfect sense, given how much of a cultural phenomenon soccer is in the UK.  The United States release date came a full sixteen months later in August 2003.

The film itself could easily be considered the breakout performance of some of television's biggest stars as well.  In the lead role, you have Parminder Nagra, who has since found success on "ER" and "The Blacklist".  You also have Archie Punjabi, who has been a cast member of "The Good Wife" since it debuted five years ago. 

The movie also featured some stars who would go on to become big stars in the film industry as well.  You'd be hard pressed to find any projects that Keira Knightly filmed before "Bend It Like Beckham", but since that film, she's become a huge part of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise, as well as starring in "Love Actually", "Domino", and "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World".

Jonathan Rhys Meyers has also done quite well for himself, portraying Elvis Presley in a television miniseries and appearing in "Mission Impossible III" and "The Mortal Instruments:  City of Bones".  So, you see...this film was a huge stepping stone for a bit of a mini British invasion of sorts in Hollywood. 

Now onto the main plot of the film, which I briefly talked about in some earlier paragraphs.

At age eighteen, Jesminder Bhamra (Nagra) is looking forward to life as a young woman.  Jess is obsessed with soccer, having developed a love of the sport from an early age.  All she wants to do is have the opportunity to play the game on her own terms whenever she likes.  However, there is a bit of a problem that Jess has to overcome first.

Actually, there's two problems.  Her very strict, very conservative Punjabi Sikh parents.  They have their own belief system on how they should raise their children.  And unfortunately for Jess, one of their beliefs is that women should not be allowed to play professional sports.  Especially soccer.

Who knew that soccer would be treated with such taboo that Jess is essentially forbidden to play the game at all just because she happens to have been born female? 

Of course, Jess is eighteen years old when the film begins.  And, at eighteen, people start to make some really huge life choices. 

Jess' choice at eighteen was to rebel against her parents and her upbringing, and go ahead and play soccer in secret.  Hey, at least she's engaging in a positive activity and not choosing to go down the same path as "wasted child star holding up a Kwik-E-Mart".  I say rebel away!

As it turns out, Jess has been kind of rebelling against her parents for a while now, playing soccer with a group of guys in the park that she met through a friend of the group who happens to be a closeted homosexual.

(NOTE:  This is a recurring theme in the film - people who are afraid of being true to themselves for fear of getting bullied, or disappointing loved ones.)

Anyway, while she's playing soccer in the park, she happens to catch the eye of a woman named Juliette "Jules" Paxton (Knightley).  And Jules just happens to be one of the members of an all-girl soccer team, "The Hounslow Harriers".  Jules convinces her coach Joe (Rhys Meyers) to give her an audition to see if she has the skills to join the team.  Sure enough, all those practice sessions in the park paid off and Jess immediately makes the team, becoming best friends with Jules in the process.

Of course, if the movie ended like this, it would be about as exciting as watching paint dry.  There has to be some minor conflict in the film or else it wouldn't be worth watching.  And without spoiling too much about the film, I'll reveal that you can expect to see a whole lot of misunderstandings, Jess' parents to eventually find out what their daughter has been doing behind their backs, and what being a part of an all-girl soccer team is really like.  Trust me, I wasn't a huge soccer fan before I watched "Bend It Like Beckham", but I enjoyed this movie a lot.  I think if you give it a shot, you'll like it too.

Well, how about some behind the scenes trivia, eh?

1 - This film was supposed to have some scenes in it where Jess and Jules reportedly share some scenes in which they explore their feelings for each other, but that angle was dropped because of the controversy surrounding it.

2 - David Beckham's wife, Victoria, contributes the song "I Wish" to this film's official soundtrack.

3 - This was the very first Western film to screen in North Korea.

4 - Parminder Nagra played the role of eighteen year old Jess in the film.  Her actual age at the time of filming?  Twenty-six.

5 - There is actually a ten year age difference between Parminder Nagra and Keira Knightley even though they are supposed to play characters of the same age.

6 - Parminder Nagra was concerned that a scar that she had on her leg would prevent her from getting the role of Jess.  To her surprise, the scar was written into the screenplay, as well as the story of how she got it.

7 - When the film was released in the United States in 2003, David Beckham was still virtually unknown in America, and marketing executives for 20th Century Fox suggested renaming the film "Move It Like Mia" (after American soccer player Mia Hamm).  The decision to keep the film's title the same was made after director Gurinder Chadha objected to the title change.

8 - Jess wears the #7 jersey in the film - the same as her idol, David Beckham.  Jules wears #9 - the same as Mia Hamm.

9 - Former Spice Girl Melanie Chisholm (a.k.a. Sporty Spice) rewrote the lyrics to her song "Independence Day" just so that the song could be used in the film.

10 - Parminder Nagra became the first female to win the FIFA International Football Personality of the Year award in 2002, beating out Ronaldo and Luis Figo.

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