Follow TV Tropes


Film / Bend It Like Beckham

Go To

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

Bend It Like Beckham is a 2002 British comedy 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.

In 2015 a musical theater production of the movie was released in London.


Bend It Like Beckham provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Joe's father pushed him way too hard; Jules' mom isn't abusive, but she's so amazingly embarrassing that it sometimes borders on abuse.
  • Almost Kiss: Jess and Joe in Germany. Jules doesn't take kindly to it.
  • 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 a heavily pregnant Pinky.
  • Bare Your Midriff: Jules often wears crop tops and sports bras throughout the film, highlighting Keira Knightly's slender figure. Notably she's almost always in a sports bra at football practise, while the other girls are usually in football shirts.
  • Advertisement:
  • The Beard: Jess' best friend Tony, who is in the closet, offers to marry her so she could keep playing soccer and he wouldn't have to come out.
  • 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 to 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.
  • Boyish Short Hair: Jules' is very much a tomboy, and her short bob haircut actually becomes a plot point when Teetu's parents see her and Jess together on the street, mistake her for a boy, and call off Teetu's marriage to Pinky.
  • Bratty Teenage Daughter: Despite being the protagonist, Jess comes off as this from time to time. Her sister Pinky is worse.
  • Brick Joke: Jules gives Jess her mother's shoes to wear for the wedding, so that she can spend the money she was given for that on soccer cleats. At the wedding, Jules's mother demands the shoes back on seeing them.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Joe's backstory is that he injured his knee trying to impress his dad, then tried to play injured and permanently damaged it.
  • 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?!"
    • Also at the wedding when Jule's mother accuses Jess of being a lesbian, a guest hurries to correct her: "No, no, not Lebanese: Indian."
  • 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 Jules'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."
  • Deliberate Values Dissonance:
    • Jess gets in trouble when her family thinks she was "kissing a white boy". She then explains she was hugging Jules, who is a girl. They are fine with this after the misunderstanding is cleared up and Pinky gets her wedding back on track, though Jules's mother isn't.
    • When Jess is talking about how a love match works, one of her teammates asks if an Indian would be allowed to enter into a love match with a white person. Jess replies that no, they may be allowed some freedom of choice, but her parents (and most Indian parents) would never consent to their child marrying anyone but another Indian.
    • Tony is really nervous about coming out as gay to his family, since they're quite against it, and Jess expresses surprise that an Indian can be gay at all.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Jess gets an athletic scholarship to a US college and eventually gets her family's blessing (with her dad's help) to go without having to marry Tony. Joe and she will tackle the problem of her parents when she gets back, and in the meantime Joe is learning cricket from her dad.
  • Fake Shemp: Jess' opening daydream uses stock footage of the actual David Beckham, but his "cameo" at the end uses a lookalike along with one for his wife Victoria.
  • 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. While Pinky doesn't understand why Jess wants to play football, she doesn't oppose her doing it, just suggesting that trying things her way may be better.
  • 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.
  • He Is Not My Boyfriend: Jules mistakes Tony for Jess's boyfriend and they say this almost word for word. He's not her boyfriend indeed since he's in the closet.
  • Historical In-Joke: "Losing to the Jerries on penalties comes natural to you English. You're part of a long tradition now."
  • I'll Pretend I Didn't Hear That: When Jess arrives for the trip to Germany she tells Joe about the excuse she gave her parents so they won't know she's still on the team. Joe responds with a short "I didn't hear that" as he lets her on the bus.
  • Innocent Bigot: Mrs. Paxton when talking to Jess spouted off nearly every Indian stereotype in the book.
  • It Runs in the Family: Jess's dad was also an athlete, although he was a cricket player, not a soccer player.
  • I Want Grandkids : Jules's mother's delight on learning that one of the England women's national football team is a married mother suggests that her desperation for Jules to look for a man, and her hostility to the thought of Jules being a lesbian, could be this trope.
  • 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. She points out that Ali Hussein was captain of the English football team too, though her mother dismisses that as he's a Muslim.
  • 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."
  • Like a Duck Takes to Water: Jess had played in the park for a long time but had never joined a proper team, had coaching or even owned a pair of football boots before the movie began. Fast-forward a mere few months and she was ready to vie for the attention of an international scout.
  • Love Triangle: Jules adores Joe, who only has eyes for Jess.
  • Marry for Love: Jess confirms to her teammates that Pinky and her boyfriend are a love match and not an arranged marriage.
  • Masculine Girl, Feminine Boy: Jess and Tony are a platonic example. Pretty downplayed in the beginning of the movie, but becomes more distinct later on when Tony comes out of the closet to Jess.
  • Meddling Parents
  • Mistaken for Gay: Jules's mother is convinced that Jules and Jess are lesbian lovers. After Jules figures this out, she explains about the Love Triangle with Joe, while calling her out for being a homophobe.
  • Mr. Fanservice: Jonathan Rhys Meyers as Joe. No wonder all the girls fall over him. Even the Guys Want Him:
    Tony: He's quite fit.note 
  • Nice Hat: Jules's mother wears a ridiculous one the first time she goes to see her play. Her dad comments that they'll be lucky if she can even 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. (Though her father's full name, Mohan Singh Bhamra, is briefly said when he is on the phone rebooking the wedding; her mother's first name is heard in a deleted scene at the wedding.)
  • 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 rather unconvincingly agrees.
    "I've got nothing against it! I was cheering for Martina Navratilova as much as the next person!"
  • Not What It Looks Like: Jess and Jules are laughing so hard at Jules' mother they have to lean on each other to stay upright. Coupled with Jules' Boyish Short Hair it ends up looking like Jess is kissing a white boy in public. Pinky's boyfriend's parents make this mistake and use it as grounds to call off the wedding.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname: Half the young Indian characters (Jess, Pinky, Bubbly, Taz...) "Jess" is explained fairly early as a nickname for "Jesminder", "but only my mom calls me that." Jules, meanwhile, is short for "Juliette".
  • 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 white boy on the streetnote  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.
  • Parents as People: Jess's parents are clearly loving and supportive, but the cultural clash between them and their daughters drives much of the plot.
  • 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!". Ironically it's Jess who looks miserable throughout the wedding. Her father eventually tells her to go play in the final so she'll finally smile on her sister's big day.
  • 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. Jess also looks gorgeous in the sari she has to wear for her sister's wedding.
  • 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 appears in the end of the film with her fella- the titular David Beckham note . Maybe Paula had a point... At the time though, Sporty Spice actually did have a boyfriend (she was last to become a mother though).
  • 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 (although in real life several women footballers have married their coaches), 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: A short montage of Jess' mom and a very pregnant Pinky getting gifts from Jess, then the Paxtons with Santa Clara University shirts from Jules, then Jess' dad and Joe playing cricket outside the Bhamra house before the Fade to Black.
  • 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. In this case, Jess' father is much more understanding on the matter. For instance, when he sees Jess perfectly miserable attending her sister's wedding when the big game is about to begin, he gives her permission to go.
    • 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. Turns out in the end he was wrong: when the league turns the Hounslow Harriers women into a pro team, he tells his dad and Dad's apparently proud of him.
    • 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 


How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: