Film: Bend It Like Beckham

"Anyone can cook aloo gobi, but who can bend a ball like Beckham?"

Bend It Like Beckham is a 2002 British film directed by Gurinder Chadha.

Jesminder "Jess" Bhamra (Parminder Nagra) is the daughter of Punjabi Sikh immigrants living in London. She loves football (as in soccer), but her parents feel she should be focusing on more womanly, Indian pursuits. Befriending Juliette "Jules" Paxton (Keira Knightley), Jess joins a women's team behind their backs, and hilarity and drama ensue.

This film provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Joe's father pushed him way too hard; Jess's parents aren't really "abusive", but they go out of their way to make it clear they don't want her playing. And Jules' mom is so amazingly embarrassing that it sometimes borders on abuse.
  • Artifact Title: Sort of; it was supposed to be a pun in the original script, where Jess was a lesbian.
  • The Baby Trap: Implied as a rare positive example: Pink's wedding with her boyfriend was called off because of Jess shaming the family. Cut to a time later in the movie where Pinky overjoyed proclaimed that they now had to let them marry. Then during the "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue we see an heavily pregnant Pinky.
  • Big Game: Soccer, especially for Jules
    • Since it's half-British, this is a must.
  • Billy Elliot Plot: Jules's story is a more straight example as her mother opposes her doing a boyish hobby and doesn't understand why she doesn't want go shopping for girly things to snag herself a man. Jess's story is a little similar but her parents are more about her getting into university than doing girly things.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Despite being the protagonist, Jess comes off as this from time to time.
    • Her sister Pinky is worse.
  • Comically Missing the Point: The Indian parents and elders have no idea what Jules's mum is freaking out about following the wedding reception; they believe the whole kerfuffle is partly a complaint about their noisy celebration and partly confusion over Jules's short hair.
    "Why did she take Jesminder's shoes?!"
  • Companion Cube: Jess talks to the poster of David Beckham in her room.
  • Daddy's Girl: Jess's dad is ultimately much more understanding of her than her mother, as is Juliet's.
  • Daydream Surprise: The opening sequence has Jess inserted into a professional match and saving the day, which might look like a Flash Forward. Then it turns into the commentators interviewing her mother, who launches into a tirade against the notion of her "running around with all these men, showing her bare legs to seventy thousand people."
  • Do Not Call Me Paul / First Name Ultimatum: Only Jess's and Jules's mothers call them Jesminder and Juliette respectively. Both find each other's full names as said by their mothers hilarious.
  • The Glorious War of Sisterly Rivalry: Jess and Pinky are Tomboy and Girly Girl. As they're both trying in their own ways to get out from under their parents' wing, though, they're more often allies than enemies.
  • Girl-on-Girl Is Hot: When Jules' mother accuses Jess and Jules of being lesbian lovers, one of Pinky's wedding guests is clearly visible in the background - he gives the two a once over, and responds with an approving nod and a lecherous smirk.
  • Groin Attack: Jess on a male player at the park (lightly, in vengeance for a boob joke). She jams the football into his junk and runs off, leaving him and the other guys wincing.
  • Historical In-Joke: "Losing to the Jerries on penalties comes natural to you English. You're part of a long tradition now."
  • Jackie Robinson Story: Jess's father faced discrimination when he tried to play cricket in English clubs, and he doesn't believe that things have changed enough for an Indian girl to be accepted as a professional footballer. While Jess has it considerably better, she does get called a Pakinote  at least once.
  • Lesbian Jock: Jules' mother thinks that her daughter and Jess are this.
    "All I'm saying is, there is a reason why Sporty Spice is the only one of them without a fella."
  • Love Triangle: Jules adores Joe who only has eyes for Jess.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Jess and Tony are a platonic example. Pretty downplayed in the beginning of the movie, but becomes more distinc later on when Tony comes out of the closet to Jess.
  • Meddling Parents/My Beloved Smother
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jules's mother is convinced that Jules and Jess are lesbians.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe. No wonder all the girls fall over him.
    Tony: "He's quite fit."
  • Nice Hat: Jules's mother wear a ridiculous one the first time she goes to see her play. Dad comments that they'll be lucky if she can fit into the car.
  • No Name Given: Jess's parents' given names aren't said at any time. Even in the end credits, they're just Mr. and Mrs. Bhamra.
  • Not That There's Anything Wrong with That: When Jules is explaining to her mother that she's not a lesbian, she ends it by saying there's nothing wrong with being a lesbian anyways. Her mother, who is in tears and had just thrown a fit over her "discovery", quickly composes herself and adamantly agrees.
    "I've got nothing against it! I was cheering for Martina Navratilova as much as the next person!"
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Half the young Indian characters (Jess, Pinky, Bubbly, Taz...)
    • Also Jules.
  • Parental Marriage Veto: Jess's parents' generation are rather torn about exactly how much control they can or should exert over their children. Pinky and her boyfriend are very much in love, but his parents still threaten to pull the plug on the upcoming wedding when they think they see Jess kissing a boy on the street and conclude that Pinky comes from a bad family. Also:
    Teammate: So if you can choose, does that mean you can marry a white boy?
    Jess: White, no. Black, definitely not. A Muslim, unh-uh.
    Teammate: Guess you'll be marrying an Indian, then.
    Jess: Probably.
  • Put Me In, Coach!: Jess has to sub in after halftime in the final, and still manages to impress the scout enough to be offered a full ride scholarship on the spot.
  • Sad Bollywood Wedding: Invoked by the cameraman at Pinky's wedding, who yells at her for looking so happy. "Eyes down. Look sad. Don't smile. Indian bride never smiles. You'll ruin the bloody video!"
  • Settled for Gay: Tony tries to get Jess to settle down with him so that he won't have to tell his family he's gay and she can fulfill her parents' expectations and still play football. She doesn't go along, though.
  • She Cleans Up Nicely: Jess, and Jules for that matter, in Germany.
  • Shopping Montage: Complete with a Spice Girls alum soundtrack.
  • Shout-Out: said Spice Girl, who has two songs in the film's soundtrack, got herself a pretty funny shoutout.
    Paula: All I'm saying is, there's a reason why Sporty Spice is the only one without a fella!
    • This joke gets extra points when Posh Spice makes a cameo in the end of the film with her fella- the titular David Beckham. Maybe Paula had a point...
  • Teacher/Student Romance: Or, in this case, coach-player romance.
  • Teeth-Clenched Teamwork: Jess and Jules have to play together during their fight.
  • Tomboy and Girly Girl: Jess and her sister Pinky, Jules and her mother.
  • Triang Relations: Jules has a crush on Joe, but tells Jess she doesn't; then she feels betrayed when Jess and Joe sort-of-kind-of start a relationship. To complicate things further, Joe isn't supposed to be dating either of them, as their coach, and Jess knows her parents wouldn't approve of her dating without their knowledge, especially a non-Indian guy. Oh, and Jules's mother mis-overhears Jules and Jess fighting about it and believes they've had a bad breakup.
  • "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue
  • Why Couldn't You Be Different?: The theme of children defying their parents' expectations, and particularly the traditionalism of Indian immigrant parents versus their more assimilated kids, comes up again and again (with varying results).
    • The main plot, obviously: Jess wants to play football, but Indian girls don't do that.
    • Pinky is more feminine and eager to get married, but wears tight clothes, makeup and blue contacts that her mother doesn't approve of, and has to sneak around to have premarital sex with her boyfriend.
    • Tony is gay. Even Jess, when he tells her, says, "But you're Indian!" — and then, "What's your mum going to say?" By the end of the movie, he still hasn't told anybody but her.
    • Jules's mother can't for the life of her understand why her daughter likes football so much and isn't interested in things like buying padded bras so as to snare a man (her father, by contrast, is supportive).
    • Joe's father was so determined for him to improve his game that he caused him a career-ending injury. Joe also says he'd "piss himself" if he knew Joe was now coaching a women's team.
    • The idea of Jess dating or marrying her Irish coach is objectionable to her parents and even Pinky. Even at the end, she tells him they have to at least hold off on a relationship, because her parents have adjusted to enough changes in a short time span.note 
  • You Go Girl: hellz yeah!