A great movie that leaves you feeling like you want to take up soccer (or, as they say in the civilized world, football) and be eighteen again. Or, at least, be eighteen again. Yes, it has a thoroughly happy ending, but you don’t see it obviously coming like the crude happy ending freight train of less skilled movies. Rather, it sneaks up on you in such a fashion that the big smiles come only at the end, and don’t stop even after you leave the theatre.
“Bend it” is a soccer term (pertaining to the trajectory of a free kick, I believe), and Beckham is a star of a professional team in England—the hero of Jesminder, an adorable soccer-crazed daughter of two fairly traditional Indian (Sikh) parents who want Jess only to get married (to an Indian, of course) and learn how to cook (Punjabi food, of course, both meat and vegetarian).
When we were in Seattle, Laurel and I had lunch at an Indian restaurant that had on a wall the very same image of Guru Nanak (founder of the Sikh religion) that is prominently displayed in Jess’ home. I liked how Jess’ mother would pray with folded hands to Guru Nanak, who she called Baba Ji, asking “What have I done in my past lives to deserve such a daughter as I have now?!” There were times in my life, I must admit, when I asked the same question—though not of Guru Nanak.
I can’t remember a movie that left me feeling so good at the end of it. Part of it was seeing all that Indian food being cooked throughout the movie, and watching the exuberant celebrating at the wedding of Jess’ sister. But most of the good feeling comes from the simple basic message of the movie: follow your dreams; don’t let other people get in the way of what you know you must do; be passionate, even angry, if this is what it takes.
We’ve seen those themes in many other movies, but rarely have they been expressed so well as in Bend It Like Beckham. Having recently reread Walden, this is a “If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer” movie. Rebels of the world, unite! Well, that sounds a bit contradictory, since you probably can’t get rebels to move in the same direction. But I do think they would happily troop into the movie theatre to watch Bend It Like Beckham together, and then go their separate ways. I shouldn’t overly emphasize the individualistic rebellious side of the movie, though, because it turns out that when Jess is truly herself, and not the girl her parents want her to be, she grows closer to her family, not more distant. A good lesson for all of us.