Bend It Like Beckham proves that when a story is close to the heart, it can make an outstanding soccer movie and family film. At $78M, BILB is probably the top-grossing soccer movie of all time (made for ~$7M).
The story transcends soccer. There are many sub-themes that play together seamlessly and with humor: Indian family culture, sexism, women in sport, and soccer passion. Jess (Gurinder Chadha), a young British-Indian girl, wants to play semi-professional soccer, but her immigrant Sikh parents forbid it, because such activity will not get her married off.
Her friendship with Jules (a sparkling 16 yo Keira Knightley) is threatened as both players fall for Coach Joe (Jonathan Rhys-Meyers) and compete for scholarships to Santa Clara University.
The soccer is choreographed by Simon Clifford, who has worked on a handful of soccer movies and also runs the worldwide Brazilian Soccer Schools franchise. Over 10 weeks, he trained the actors and taught Parminder (Jess) how to BILB. The non-actor players are from QPR Ladies, Fulham, and Hamburg. But the play is very time-sliced together and does not really flow.
Some facts from the DVD commentary:
- Writer-Director Gurinder Chadha got Beckham’s approval in 1998 after his red card vs Argentina almost destroyed his career. By the time the movie came out, it coincided with his WC 2002 performance and rise to megastar-dom.
- Most of the film is shot in the Southall indian district of West London.
- The burn scar on Parminder’s leg is real and is incorporated into the film by having her tell the true story of how her trousers caught fire.
- The film was shot in 35 days in summer 2001.
- Shaznay Lewis, an English pop star, was added to Jess & Jules’ team because she played one game for the Arsenal Ladies.
- The writers attended the 1999 Womens World Cup and wanted to incorporate that excitement about womens soccer into their story. Shots of Tiffany Milbrett and Mia Hamm are in the film.
- Frank Harper, who plays Keira’s father, used to be a hooligan. Art imitating life, Frank has played a hooligan in 2 football films. His father played for Milwall Lions.
The best extra on the DVD is the audio commentary by female Writer-Director Gurinder Chadha and her American-born husband, writer Paul Mayeda Berges.
In Jun-2015, Chadha and Berges brought the story to the London stage as a musical.
Soccer Movie Mom Rating = 10